The first qualifying session at the 7th round of the World Superbike championship from Imola saw a similar story to that of the morning’s free practice session, with Tom Sykes finishing on top as we are so used to seeing this and last season in the championship.
|Another provisional pole for Sykes
With the weather being slightly humid, overcast but all importantly dry, the riders were able to push to the limit around the oh-so-famous Imola circuit, with Jonathan Rea taking top spot for the opening ten minutes. The Pata Honda rider was soon replaced at the top by Sykes, with current championship leader Guintoli in third, home rider on home bike Ayrton Badovini in fourth and fellow Italian Davide Giugliano rounding out the top five.
There was little action for the proceeding fifteen minutes before a crash from Loris Baz seemed to spark everyone else into life; with Marco Melandri and Michel Fabrizio putting their machines in 3rd and fourth respectively. In response, Rea closed the gap to the Kawasaki ahead of him to just nine thousandths of a second, before the red flag made an appearance due to an unknown liquid substance on the track.
After a brief clean up operation from marshals, riders were soon back out on track with fifteen minutes left on the clock. The Italian trio of Giugliano, Melandri and Fabrizio continued to put in fast laps, going third, fourth and fifth respectively behind the British pair of Sykes and Rea with ten minutes to go. Whilst the likes of Camier and Laverty were battling inside the top ten, fellow British riders, Haslam and Davies found themselves looming just outside the top ten not far off the pace of those up the front. Haslam had lead the morning free practice session at one point, but seemed to be struggling in Q1 and unable to run up the front with his team mate, Rea.
Five minutes later, Sykes increased the gap between himself and Rea back to half a second with a 1m 47.218s lap; the top six at this time were covered by a single second. Rea responded by pulling back a quarter of a second where the gap remained unchanged for the remainder of the session. Behind Rea, Badovini outclassed his elder team mate Carlos Checa on the Panigale to put his Ducati in fourth, just behind Fabrizio who put in a final fast lap as the flag came out. Giugliano, Melandri, Guintoli and Camier rounded out the top eight.
You would be very brave to bet against Tom Sykes for pole position tomorrow, the Brit as ever, has shown dominating pace throughout the day with his Kawasaki handling brilliantly around the fast and flowing Imola circuit. Although, the flowing nature and less reliance on top speed and acceleration will definitely be a helping hand to the likes of Pata Honda and Suzuki, evidenced by both Rea and Haslam running up the top of the time sheets in today’s session with Leon Camier on the Fixi Crescent Suzuki on the pace also.
The factory Aprilias were uncharacteristically off the pace today, bettered by both ‘satellite’ machines of Fabrizio and Giugliano. It seems hometown fever has got into the system of the Italian riders this weekend, Giugliano and Fabrizio in particular running up the top end and Badovini also having impressed many today with his speed on the still somewhat undeveloped Panigale Ducati; it will be interesting to see if he can continue this form in tomorrow’s qualifying. Compatriot Marco Melandri is also a potential front row sitter and winner this weekend, on the back of a win at Portimao, along with a win previously at Monza, the BMW rider will be looking for more hometown glory despite the BMW not being perhaps best suited to the style of the Imola circuit.
It was a fantastic day all round for British motorcycle racers, with Crutchlow taking his first pole position in MotoGP, Tom Sykes as-per-usual taking provisional SBK pole… and Sam Lowes taking yet another provisional pole in Supersport. The Lincolnshire rider is a changed man this season, the ‘King of Supersport’ Kenan Sofuoglu has been overthrown it seems as Lowes took provisional pole by seven tenths of a second, while Kawasaki’s Sofuoglu found himself lying outside the top ten. Jack Kennedy on the Rivamoto Honda wasn’t hanging around this afternoon bagging a provisional 9th position on the grid, this being the Irishman’s first visit to the Italian circuit. Fellow Brit riders, Coghlan, Iddon and a wildcarding Tommy Bridewell ended the day in 12th, 22nd and 23rd respectively.
Times for WSBK Q1 below…
19. Alexander Lundh (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’52.471