Surprises are the only thing that can be safely predicted about motorbike racing, and Phillip Island is unique enough to deliver them in spades. The long gap, dseven weeks before the second race, gives Phillip Island the air of pre-season testing … with points.
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The last race of the day was dry at 22°C.
Marco Melandri led the race ahead of Davide Giugliano, but Sylvain Guintoli took only a lap to take control at the front. Loris Baz passed Melandri for second and Jonathan Rea settled into fourth and started hounding Melandri for third.
The World Supersport race took part in a dry, 19°C day.
Kenan Sofuoglu took the lead from pole position, with Michael Van Der Mark in second ahead of Roberto Tamburini and PJ Jacobsen. On the second lap, Van Der Mark took the lead and Kev Coghlan joined the front two and, as Jacobsen pulled out with a technical problem, the three remaining at the front proceeded to make a gap from the rest, with Sofuoglu taking the lead once more, hounded by Coghlan and Van Der Mark.
The first race of the season was dry, at 21°C
Sylvain Guintoli took the lead from pole position, followed by Marco Melandri on the other Aprilia, gaining a place on Davide Giugliano's Ducati. Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes led Chaz Davies, Eugene Laverty and Loris Baz in a second pack. Guintoli tried to stretch out a lead but Melandri and Giugliano stayed with him, with the first three stretching a gap over the second pack that was over two seconds by the time Alex Lowes crashed out on the fourth lap. Elias and Haslam also crashed out in separate incidents.
Now we have seen the new format for qualifying and the changes are not as drastic as they may have seemed on paper. Familiarity with the way the MotoGP system worked helped, as did the fact that the new format isn’t that different from the old one.
The only difference seems to be that Tom Sykes crashes in the new system.
World Supersport qualifying took a few minutes longer than it should, being red-flagged briefly.
In the only true Free Practice session, one that does not count towards Superpole entry, Davide Giugliano went quicker than all but Alex Lowes in the timed sessions. Tom Sykes reassuringly sat in second place ahead of Sylvain Guintoli.
Kenan Sofuoglu escaped from the clutches of Michael Van Der Mark by eleven thousandths of a second, retaining the top spot before final qualifying. PJ Jacobsen, the American by way of British Superbike, was in third place ahead of Kev Coghlan and series rookie Ratthapark Wilairot. The MV Agusta pair of Vladimir Leonov and Jules Cluzel are the only other riders under 1'34.
Alex Lowes demionstrated that his Friday performance was not a one-off by putting his Suzuki in provisional pole ahead of his teammate. Eugene Laverty on the other GSX-R1000 was within xxx, with the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies sitting in third and fourth places, following in Carlos Checa's qualifying performance from last year. Tom Sykes, world champion and qualifying maven, assured that he'd be in the top qualifying group while Niccolo Canepa makes history by putting his EVO Ducati Panigale into Superpole 2 amongst the full-SBK spec bikes.
Phillip Island is unique. The opening race is held in the southern hemisphere, seven weeks before the circus gets to Europe. The track has its own climate and last year’s resurfacing still makes the track abrasive. Testing here took place last week, which gave teams a bit of additional setup, but it also took its toll in injuries, something that continued into the qualifying runs. The morning’s session in both Superbike and Supersport were lost to rain, but the afternoon sessions ran without a problem.
On his first day on the job, Alex Lowes tops his first timing sheet. The British Superbike champion, and twin brother of Sam, the World Supersport champion, recorded seven 1'31 laps on his Suzuki GSX-R1000. Marco Melandri, on the newly liveried silver Aprilia, adapted quickly to his new machine ahead of Davide Giugliano and Tom Sykes.
Without his rival of last year, Sofuoglu showed why he's a favourite for the title this year, setting the fastest time, two-thirds of a second faster than the rest of the field, as soon as conditions allowed, setting the fastest lap just ten minutes into the session. As the only rider to get a 1'33 lap, and several of them at that, pole position is well within his grasp.
As the weather in Australia dampens both the track and the teams' enthusiasm, very few riders were able to get a lap that was worth anything in. At the end of the session, as conditions allowed, a handful of riders set out and recorded times that just show that their data loggers work, and very little else.
The opening Free Practice session for World Supersport ended with only four riders recording a complete lap. The rain ensured most riders just stayed in their garages.
Tom Sykes seized control of the World Superbike test at Phillip Island, topping the timesheets on the second day of the test with a lap just five thousandths shy of Carlos Checa's pole record around the Australian circuit. The reigning world champion set a time in the morning which nobody could get near, signalling his intention to fiercely defend his title.