There are straight-forward races, there are confusing races and then there are flag-to-flag races in mixed conditions. Teams that practiced pitstops will have looked at the skies and considered the time likely not wasted. As the riders lined up on slicks under a grey sky, even if Sykes struggled to get off the line for the warm up lap, they couldn’t know just how different this race would be.
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The weather at the Moscow Raceway relented just long enough to allow a nice dry Superpole. Rain in the sessions before and after luckily didn’t affect the centrepiece of Saturday’s entertainment. On a track like Moscow, with a plethora of first- and second-gear corners leading to a one kilometre straight, you would expect different bikes to perform well in different halves, with the nimble bikes owning the first two sectors, but being demolished in the last sector by the faster bikes, and qualifying played out this way.
Rain caused trouble for World Supersport qualifying.
In spite of Sam Lowes being the only rider able to get under 1'39, positions were all decided from times set in the first qualifying session and Kenan Sofuoglu will start from pole position ahead of, appropriately for Moscow, the two Yakhnich Yamahas of Sam Lowes and Vladimir Leonov.
After much speculation with the weather, Superpole was declared a dry session, even though clouds were looming overhead. The top fifteen compete over three sessions with only two qualifying tyres allocated to each rider, with riders eliminated at each stage.
Rain arrived and slowed proceedings down, with some riders not managing to even record a complete lap time. Tom Sykes was fastest ahead of the Suzukis of Leon Camier and Jules Cluzel while many teams prepared for potential rain tomorrow with pit stop practice. Carlos Checa, whose bike was built from a rolling chassis after his crash in the morning, came out at the end of the session, showing his hit on the head wouldn't keep him out of qualifying and racing.
As the flag came out at the end of a drying session, it looked like another session with Sam Lowes snatching the top spot on his last lap, but instead, after Lowes set his last fast time, Roberto Rolfo on the MV Agusta came from nowhere and set a time two tenths faster. The track should dry out for the final qualifying later today.
Moscow greeted the riders with rain, ensuring that times would not improve over yesterday. Sylvain Guintoli was the only rider not to go out on track, knowing nobody would be able to knock him out of Superpole. The session was red flagged two minuted from the end when, shortly after Davide Giugliano crashed out, Carlos Checa's rear wheel inexplicably locked up on the back straight, throwing him off his bike. Checa was up and about but ended the session in the medical centre.
Moscow is more like a national circuit than an international world championship venue. It’s a short track in character, in spite of the long back straight that leads to the last corner, offering a last chance passing place.
The four fastest riders from the morning session were also the four fastest in the afternoon, albeit in a different order. Tom Sykes set the pace ahead of Davide Giugliano, once again quicker than the factory Aprilias. Marco Melandri filled the last provisional front row spot, with Checa, over 18kmh slower and only three hundredths off his lap time, in fourth.
In the first timed session, Kenan Sofuoglu, last year's race winner, set the provisional pole time ahead of Yamaha teammates Sam Lowes and Vladimir Leonov at their team's home race. Sufuoglu's best time weas still seven tenths of Jules Cluzel's record of 1'37.347 from last year.
Marco Melandri ended fastest in a session dominated by Davide Giugliano, with Tom Sykes and a resurgent Carlos Checa behind them. Sylvain Guintoli, riding injured, was less than a second and a half off the pace.
Sam Lowes set the pace in the first free practice session of the weekend, just beating his title rival Kenan Sofuoglu at the flag by two hundredths of a second.
Napoleon Bonaparte, former Emperor of France and large army afficionado, once said “in war, luck is half in everything,” and this weekend, riders in both classes would understand the sentiment. While weather also played a factor on Sunday, it was increased heat instead of rain for a change.
The second World Superbike race at Imola was 21 uninterrupted laps in hot weather.
World Supersport planned 19 laps under a cloudless sky, and fate would roll her dice once more.
The race started with Sam Lowes taking the lead ahead of Kenan Sofuoglu while Luca Scassa in sixth place cut across the nose of Lorenzo Zanetti, clipping his bike on the grid. An investigation was into Scassa’s actions was opened. Kenan Sofuoglu took the lead off Sam Lowes at the beginning of the race, and the pair of them set about making a gap from Riccardo Russo, Luca Scassa and Vladimir Ivanov.