Qualifying at Laguna Seca was in unsurprisingly glorious Californian weather, with the dry lake bowl providing the usual entertainment, in spite of there being no long straights on the short, but exceedingly popular, track. With the Corkscrew getting the column inches, the last turn, the first gear turn 11, is the one that catches most people out, and it caught a rider out in Superpole Two.
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Unlike the usual schedule, with limited pit space causing the absence of World Supersport and requiring all manner of logistical shifts, all three timed qualifying sessions took place on the Friday, with the entries to Superpole decided yesterday.
Tom Sykes puts himself at the top of the most likely to get pole position with a blistering 1'23.097 ahead of the Ducatis of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies. On a track where outright top speed and power aren't necessary to do well, as can be seen by the top speeds below, Sykes still shows that on a single lap, he's at the top of the pile.
Chaz Davies heads to Superpole with the fastest time of the day, beating the Aprilias of Sylvain Guintoli and Marco Melandri. Tom Sykes has to rely on his time from the second session for provisional fourth, while Toni Elias's time from the first session qualifies him for Superpole Two, knocking Loris Baz down to Superpole One where he will be one of the favourites to be promoted to the second session.
Tom Sykes set the quickest time ahead of Chaz Davies, much like the results of race one last year. Marco Melandri, third quickest today, was fourth behind Eugene Laverty in that race.
Sylvain Guintoli sets the only 1'23 lap of the session but has still got 1.2 seconds before he matches his own best time, the outright lap record of 1'22.683, set in 2013. Tom Sykes and Marco Melandri are within three tenths of a second.
Rain is the great leveller, with some bikes that lack power or traction suddenly being just as rideable as the ones at the sharper end. Suddenly, being on a Fireblade or a GSXR isn't the handicap it would otherwise be, and the Panigale looks like a contender. It won't put the Evo bikes to the front, but if you're in the top ten, having the right bike is suddenly no longer as important.
With rain pouring from the sky, the umbrellas were put to their proper use. Along with wet-weather tyres, everyone softened their springs, reduced their damping, put on the double-wide knee sliders and slotted clear visors in their helmets. The race was reduced to eighteen laps and everyone got wet.
The weather continued to look threatening for the start of the World Supersport race.
Kenan Sofuoglu took the lead with Jules Cluzel and Michael van der Mark behind him, but at the start of the second lap, behind Sofuoglu the riders fighting for second-place crossed the line three abreast, and Jack Kennedy won the battle for second ahead of Cluzel and Van der Mark. Kennedy hounded Sofuoglu for four laps and forced an error from the multiple world champion and took the lead as Sofuoglu went wide, letting Kennedy and Van der Mark pass him.
Grey skies loomed over the grid as most of the bikes lined up, with the EBRs starting from the pit lane with new engines ahead of their home round in Laguna Seca. The temperature was down on yesterday even if the wind wasn't.
Jonathan Rea took the lead at turn one, followed by Marco Melandri from the second row. Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies battled for third place, with Sykes behind Rea and Melandri with his teammate Loris Baz ahead of Davies and Sylvain Guintoli. Sykes slipped into second place behind Rea on the third lap as the light dropped with the clouds creeping in.
After the light-hearted fun and games on Twitter yesterday, with Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty poking fun at Tom Sykes and his stated dislike of the hills at Portimão, the serious business of qualifying settled all the disputes.
Qualifying was done under the same warm and windy conditions as World Superbike.
PJ Jacobsen and Jack Kennedy made early visits to the top of the table, but Kenan Sofuoglu, Michael van der Mark and Jules Cluzel took the top three places as the session played out.
Qualifying for tomorrow's race took place in a warm and windy Portugal.
Tom Sykes was quicker than the Suzukis of Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes in the untimed practice session.
Michael van der Mark is quickest ahead of Kenan Sofuoglu and Jules Cluzel. Sofuoglu fell with over ten minutes remaining in the session and was unable to restart.