Championship contender Noriyuki Haga and his Ducati Xerox squad experienced a difficult day, and a difficult Superpole, at the Portimao circuit today, closing in tenth position, while Michel Fabrizio and his Ducati 1198 had more success, qualifying on the front row, alongside Spies (Yamaha), Byrne (Ducati) and Rea (Honda), for tomorrow’s crucial races.
In second qualifying this morning both Noriyuki and Michel continued to work to improve the rear setting of their Ducati 1198 machines, with both able to improve on yesterday’s qualifying times despite an apparent lack of rear grip. Michel recorded the second fastest time of the session, ducking under the 1m44 barrier several times, to be beaten only by Jonathan Rea (Honda) while Noriyuki concluded the session in fifth place, improving on yesterday’s performance and securing himself safe passage into the afternoon’s Superpole.
Early afternoon free practice passed without incident, Michel and Noriyuki finished in second and eighth place respectively. Noriyuki and Michel then exited in the first mini-Superpole sessione on race tyres, thw two factory riders doing enough to progress easily on to the second phase, having closed phase one in tenth (Michel) and eleventh (Nori) position. Qualifying tyres were then mounted for the second session and in his first exit Michel registered the fifth fastest time. He didn’t re-exit and so his fifth position dropped to eighth. Noriyuki, having consistently lost time in the third split throughout today, was unable to put together a fast lap in this second Superpole with his best time leaving him in tenth place, which positions him on the third row for tomorrow’s all important races. Michel, with a new qualifier ready for the final Superpole phase made one very fast lap to project himself into first position, a position he maintained until the last minute when both Yamaha’s Spies and Byrne on the Ducati lapped faster, meaning third place on the grid for the Italian rider tomorrow.
Michel Fabrizio 1m43.0s
“Of course I’m satisfied to be on the front row but it wasn’t easy this afternoon. Ben really got the best out of the qualifying tyre while I found it more difficult to work with; there are also many strong guys out there this weekend. Anyway, I’ll start from third and, bearing in mind that the championship is at stake, I will do everything to get ahead of Ben tomorrow, to help my team-mate Nori in the fight for the title. It will be hard for him, starting from the third row but we will see tomorrow; he is an extremely strong and expert rider. For me it might be difficult to stick with Ben, especially in the first laps, but I feel prepared. There’s also another Ducati on the front row; it’s good to have Shakey here too and I hope that he can be part of tomorrow’s battle for the win.”
Noriyuki Haga 1m43.3s
“Of course it is a disadvantage to be on the third row of the grid but I’ve won races from that position in the past and I know that anything can happen on race day. The problem is that all day today I’ve had trouble turning and, at the same time, I’m not happy with the level of rear grip. We used the two qualifying tyres in the second Superpole session and they gave me better grip but didn’t help me to move the bike into the corners any more easily. So I’m consistently losing time in the final split and that’s the real problem. We must change something for tomorrow so I’m talking to my engineer and we’ll see tomorrow morning if we’ve found a solution that will enable me to fight for the race and title wins.”