The 6th round of the World Superbike championship from Portimão in the Algarve got underway with the 45 minute free practice session this morning.
|Sykes finishes top yet again…
Unlike the previous round at Donington Park, the conditions were ideal, meaning that the majority of riders were out on track gathering data for a good setup in preparation for this afternoon’s first Qualifying session.
Factory Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty topped the time sheets early on, but was swiftly pushed down the order by his team mate Sylvain Guintoli and GoldBet BMW’s, Marco Melandri.
Tom Sykes left pit lane after 10 minutes, immediately going to fourth behind Laverty, relagating Chaz Davies to 5th. The double winner from Donington continued to gather pace and leapt into 3rd ahead of Laverty by a tenth in the following lap.
A minute later, Guintoli put his RSV4 Aprilia top of the pile, just a tenth ahead of Melandri. The BMW rider responded immediately going ahead once again by 2 hundredths of a second.
After the first quarter of an hour it was time for most riders to pit in and give feedback to their crew chiefs and data engineers et al. Chaz Davies however, stayed out for a few extra flying laps and managed to hop into 3rd but was still six tenths off the top duo of Melandri and Guintoli. The Welshman pitted the following lap.
At the half way point through the session, Laverty stormed past Davies once again into 3rd, this time nearly three tenths faster than the 2011 World Supersport Champion. Meanwhile, Jonathan Rea made his way into the top 10, placing his Pata Honda into 6th just over a tenth behind Tom Sykes.
With fifteen minutes to go, Laverty regained his third place before being relegated again to 4th by Tom Sykes. A minute later, Laverty was shoved further down the order by Sykes’ team mate Loris Baz. This also put Davies and Rea down into 6th and 7th respectively. By this point, the top 5 were covered by half a second.
A quiet ten minutes later, things really began to heat up with flying laps and personal bests coming in thick and fast: Laverty went back into 3rd, followed by Jonathan Rea who put his Honda CBR1000RR ahead of Baz into 5th.
Fixi Suzuki rider Leon Camier also regained his spot in the top ten and went 8th ahead of Chaz Davies. Camier was then followed by Carlos Checa, who for the first time in the session put his Ducati Panigale into the top ten, pushing Davies back into 9th place.
However, less than a minute in the final moments of the session, Sykes, Fabrizio, Davies and Rea all upped the pace again and placed their machines in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively. This pushed the likes of Melandri, Guintoli and Laverty, who had been topping the timing screens throughout the session, back into 5th, 6th and 7th. The three factory riders had no response to the top 4 thereafter.
The top seven were covered by less than half a second.
The session ended with Baz, Giugliano and Camier rounding out the top ten. They were closely followed by the walking wounded duo of Checa and Haslam in 11th and 12th.