Latest World Superbike Results
Joint-championship leader Eugene Laverty posts the fastest time of the weekend in advance of Superpole. Tom Sykes, pole position holder here last year, was second fastest ahead of Marco Melandri and Jonathan Rea.
Laverty's time of 1'57.409 is faster than has been recorded in a race, but is still almost a second off Sykes's pole position time of 1'56.552 with qualifying tyres.
Michael Van Der Mark continues to press Sam Lowes and Kenan Sofuoglu, but Lowes remains the only rider to be recording 2'01 laps. Sheridan Morais was unable to match his second fastest qualifying time from yesterday, with three Kawasakis between him and the front three.
Tom Sykes is back to his dominant qualifying form, taking the fastest time from Eugene Laverty who also improved on his time from yesterday. Jonathan Rea filled the provisional front row, showing maybe the bike improvements promised for Aragon were forthcoming. Rea's teammate Leon Haslam was unable to record a good time as he crashed very early on in the morning's session, damaging his bike to a point it won't be ready until free practice.
Chaz Davies continued to out-qualify his teammate Marco Melandri, improving on his previous time by half a second while Melandri made very little improvement. Sylvain Guintoli was surprisingly the third quickest Aprilia as Davide Giugliano was able to find over a second to chop off yesterday's time.
Back with the Ducatis, Checa was 13th fastest but the biggest improvement was Aitchison improving by a second and a half, climbing up to second from the bottom on his Effenbert 1098R.
The second race weekend brings World Superbike to Europe and starts the meaty part of the season. After a quick test for some teams, Aragon welcomes the entire grid. The track is relatively new track near Alcañiz in the Aragon region of Spain. The stand-out feature is the long back straight joined to the start/finish straight by a fiddly hairpin section. It's a circuit that suits bikes with top speeds as overtaking at the end of the long straight puts a faster bike over the line before a slower, more agile bike. If you're on an Aprilia, BMW or Tom Sykes's Kawasaki, you are in with a chance of a win. The long back straight was also the home of one of last year's more memorable and unusual overtakes, with Supersport contenders Kenan Sofuoglu and Fabien Foret meeting down the back straight with Sofuoglu trying to headbutt Foret as he passed him.
Eugene Laverty stole provisional pole from Chaz Davies at the chequered flag with Tom Sykes in provisional third place. Marco Melandri was the last rider under 1'59, and the only rider in the top ten not to improve on his morning's time.
Leon Camier crashed, causing the session to be red-flagged, and was taken to the medical centre, but he still managed to go sixth fastest, with over thirty minutes remaining.
Carlos Checa struggled as the Ducati Panigales suffered from a twenty kilometre per hour speed difference between them and the Aprilias on the long straight. Ducati riders have to salvage as many points as possible before returning to tracks more likely to favour their bikes, and Mark Aitchison's Effenbert Ducati, the only one of the older 1098Rs racing, was well over 30kmh slower, never even passing the 300kmh mark.
Sam Lowes led the field by almost half a second, with Sheridan Morais making a surprise appearance in second. The quick South African was two seconds off the pace this morning, but he found a fast lap in the last minute of qualifying. Michael Van Der Mark and Kenan Sofuoglu round off the provisional front row, continuing their good form from this morning's session. All the top riders improved on their morning's times, but provisional pole man Sam Lowes beat the outright fastest lap set by Broc Parkes in 2011.
Tom Sykes was the quickest man at the Aragon tests, despite still suffering from a wrist injury, and he continued to dominate the morning's free practice session, but it was the BMWs of Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies that finally took the top two spots ahead of the Kawasaki man. Eugene Laverty was able to exploit his Aprilia's long legs down the back straight while Leon Camier was able to continue his run of good form at the tests to put his Suzuki in fifth, ahead of the Hondas of Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam.
Michael Van Der Mark continued to impress, topping the timing sheets for most of the first free practice session. In only his second weekend on board the World Supersport PATA Honda, he demonstrated that his third position at the opening race at Philip Island was, as suspected, not a fluke. Title favourites Kenan Sofuoglu and Sam Lowes continued where their fight they left off and eventually current world champion Sofuoglu took the top spot with his MAHI Kawasaki as the session wound down, over half a second faster than Michael Van Der Mark's lap, although Van Der Mark was able to close the gap to Sofuoglu to just over a tenth of a second at the flag. Kevin Coghlan posted impressive times, constantly in or near the top four all session, ending third ahead of Sam Lowes. Fabien Foret, second place man last year, and recipient of the Sofuoglu headbutt down the back straight, had a poor session but managed to get a lap in at the flag to end the session sixth fastest, behind Vladimir Ivavov.
Kawasakis took most of the top spots, with Lowes and Van Der Mark being the exceptions.
The opening race weekend of the year was at a freshly-resurfaced Phillip Island, a job that's needed doing for a while that required building an asphalt batching plant on the island. This 3 million Australian dollar undertaking that required 5,000 tonnes of secret Phillip Island recipe asphalt even carried on into the weekend as support staff were seen pumping seams of epoxy resin into newly formed gaps at the edge of the track after the stresses of the first race.
Pirelli knew of the surface composition in advance, being one of the few people sworn to secrecy by the track owners, and constructed tyres accordingly. The grip levels on the track were increased, causing more abrasion than previously and in the Superbike class, the wheels were increased from 16.5" to 17", throwing two unknowns at Pirelli. Luckily, there were two tests at the island track just before the race, giving everyone the feedback necessary. Unfortunately, the proximity of the test to the race would not give anyone time to make drastic changes, if they became necessary. Going in to the race weekend, this thrust tyre talk to the forefront of any conversation, drowning out even discussions of Ducati's new race bike.
Carlos Checa was unable to start race two, moving Eugene Laverty into pole position and promoting Tom Sykes to the front row. Everyone knew how the tyres would work, freeing them up to just get on with the racing.
Running only fifteen laps, the race started late as Araldite was pumped into fresh cracks on some corners; The battle between asphalt and tyre turned out different to expectations in the Superbike race.
Kenan Sofuoglu had his work cut out for him, with Sam Lowes blitzing qualifying. His title defence would start as second-favourite for the race and with the shortened distance, he would have to get a better start than Lowes as if he let the Englishman get the slightest lead, he would never catch him.
Twenty two dry laps in Australia where tyre wear was a concern before the race started, but in the end, the Pirellis lasted the distance.
It feels like a blessing to be able to start a report without having to discuss the weather and how it adversely affected the sessions. Here’s hoping that the rest of the year follows suit as 2012 may have provided us with entertaining weather, it did get a bit much at times, to the point of being dangerous.
The first weekend’s qualifying is over, with mixed results. Pirelli will be leaving the island under a dark cloud as Supersport tyres were reported to be suffering to such a degree on the new asphalt that the race on Sunday has had six laps lopped off it for safety. Five red flags and a premature ending to the first Supersport session set the tone yet as the weekend progressed, the incidents became fewer as survival instincts adjusted to the new dangers. It remains to be seen if the Superbike race will be impacted by dodgy rubber, but a few riders were capable of stringing together long runs on tyres that didn’t degrade too much.
On Sunday, the World Supersport race will be reduced to a 15-lap race due to concerns over the longevity of the Pirelli tyres available on the resurfaced track. The final qualifying session was completed without any major incidents or stoppages.
This year, only 15 riders qualify for Superpole with three eliminated after the first of the three sessions. This is due to the switch to MotoGP-like three bike wide grids. There are three twelve minute sessions with three riders eliminated after each of the sessions with the last session determining the grid positions for the first three rows. As it was last year, each rider gets two Pirelli qualifying tyres to use across the three sessions.