Qualifying for World Superbike's penultimate pair of races for 2014 took place today, and the French circuit of Magny-Cours, designed by the ubiquitous Hermann Tilke, had been resurfaced in places since last year, making the track a little bit quicker. Rain has been predicted as possible tomorrow, which would mean qualifying is merely an indicator of where everyone starts the race and not a prediction of pace.
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Qualifying for the penultimate World Supersport race finally saw Cal Crutchlow's 2009 qualifying lap bettered.
Jules Cluzel took a dominant pole position, almost half a second quicker than the rest of the field and was the first of two Frenchmen on the front row. Wild card Lucas Mahias, current French Supersport champion having won all twelve races in the series, earned a hard fought second place ahead of Kenan Sofuoglu. World Supersport champion Michael van der Mark heads up the second row ahead of Roberto Tamburini and PJ Jacobsen.
Tom Sykes continues his title defence with the fastest lap in the untimed session ahead of Superpole with Marco Melandri very close behind. The session was red-flagged with twenty-one minutes remaining due to Sykes crashing at the final chicane after setting the fastest lap. The session resumed shortly after, but Sykes missed out on over ten minutes of tracktime.
Wild Card Lucas Mahias leads Michael van der Mark and Kenan Sofuoglu.
With five manufacturers in the top six, Sylvain Guintoli is quickest in France.
Davide Giugliano sets the first 1'37 of the meeting, ahead of Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli.
Crowned champion Michael van der Mark continues to be the quickest rider at Magny-Cours. Wild card Lucas Mahias was again third-quickest, only behind Van der Mark and Roberto Tamburini this session.
Sylvain Guintoli pips Tom Sykes in front of his home crowd.
Michael van der Mark opened the weekend ahead of Jack Kennedy and French wild card Lucas Mahais.
Team orders, an unpopular aspect of team racing, usually come into play at this point of a title chase, with Eugene Laverty gifting Max Biaggi points to win the 2012 championship being the most blatant example of recent years.
The World Supersport race was a fight for a potential title over nineteen laps with the fastest non-contender relegated to a pit lane start.
The three contenders for the title, Michael Van Der Mark, Jules Cluzel and Florian Marino lined up in first, third and tenth on the grid, but this didn't matter as the start put Van Der Mark in seventh after a few corners while Marino led with Cluzel spearing through to fourth.
Race Report follows.
As the lights went out, Sykes got the jump on the field, but by the first corner, he was back in sixth place after nearly clipping his teammate Loris Baz and Davide Giugliano. Sylvain Guintoli and Loris Baz were joined by a hard-charging Alex Lowes at the front and by the end of the first lap, Lowes pushed past Baz to second place, but Baz got back past Lowes on the next lap.
The rulebook was brought out for an engine too many in World Supersport and a qualifying record was broken by the entire front row in World Superbike.
Loris Baz set a pole position that even his estranged Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes couldn't beat. The first sector of his fast lap was not as quick as he felt he could have gone as he wasn't sure of the grip, but as the lap went on, he got quicker, until he put in the fastest time of the session in the fourth and last sector, a sector that, like the second sector suited the Aprilias and Baz.
A team that uses more than the allocated number of engines during the Championship will receive a penalty as per rule 1.21.20 below.
Kenan Sofuoglu got the second-quickest time in qualifying, but he will not be taking his place on the grid as his new team has commited an engine infraction, details of which will be shared once we have them. Relinquishing the place puts Lorenzo Zanetti in second place behind teammate and championship leader Michael van der Mark. Florian Marino gets promoted to the front row.
Superpole One took place under cooler conditions than yesterday's afternoon session.
Leon Haslam and David Salom were the top two after the first five minutes and Haslam just kept increasing the pace, as you'd expect on a non-Evo bike. Alessandro Andreozzi had the second spot, the last spot that could promote you to Superpole two, at the halfway mark, but the qualifying tyres turned up for the second half.