The Superbike World Championship riders were welcomed to Valencia in Spain by warm sunshine and a dry track surface on Friday, allowing them to make rapid improvements in their race set-ups.
The battle to set the fastest lap in the qualifying session was won by local rider, Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati), in a good session for vee-twin machines. His 1:34.220 was less than one second from the outright best lap, as the Spaniard once more put himself into the reckoning for a top result on Sunday.
It was a great day for the privateers, as Jakub Smrz (Pata B&G Ducati) was an impressive second fastest, and Checa’s teammate Shane Byrne third. The first non-Ducati was the Aprilia Alitalia machine of Max Biaggi, with points leader Leon Haslam (Alstare Suzuki) fifth.
The official Ducati Xerox machines of Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga were down in sixth and seventh places today, with Fabrizio falling late on in the timed session. Another Ducati rider, Lorenzo Lanzi (DFX Ducati) reminded us all he was a winner here two years ago by going eighth fastest, 0.829 from Checa’s best lap.
Top Yamaha rider proved to be Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha Sterilgarda) ninth fastest, while reigning BSB Champion Leon Camier placed the second Aprilia Alitalia factory bike 10th.
Honda, BMW and Kawasaki riders had some high points today but Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) was 13th in qualifying, Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) 14th and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) 19th today. Corser was inside the top four in the first unofficial session of practice, but fell late on in the timed session, losing a chance to make an even better lap.
Katsuaki Fujiwara (Kawasaki Motocard.com) was unbeatable in the first timed session as he set a 1:36.319 lap, resisting the late charge from his team-mate Joan Lascorz. Fujiwara’s opening day fastest lap compares well with the existing best lap, being 0.454 seconds off the 1:35.865 set last year by Cal Crutchlow.
Michele Pirro (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) earned a provisional front row start, third fastest, with Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) also in the top four. David Salom (ParkinGO BE-1 Triumph) was the top three-cylinder rider on show, and the second Spaniard in the top five.
Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia) secured the fastest time in the opening qualifying session at Valencia, with a 1’36.952. Next fastest rider, Maxime Berger (Ten Kate Race Junior Honda) was 0.849 seconds off in second, while Davide Giugliano (Team06 Suzuki) was third fastest, close behind Berger.
Loris Baz took his Yamaha MRS R1 to fourth spot on the provisional grid, with one more qualifying session remaining. Pere Tutusaus’s Goeleven KTM 1190RC8R, in fifth place, put five different machines in the top five places.
Florian Marino (Ten Kate Race Junior) led the pack in the first day of action at Valencia, running his Honda ahead of Bernardino Lombardi (Martini Corse Yamaha), Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Racing Yamaha) and Fred Karlsen (MTM Yamaha).
SUPERBIKE RIDER QUOTES:
Carlos Checa: “This bike works well at this type of circuit, especially in the tighter sections in the middle of the lap. I worked this morning on finding a rhythm and working with the soft rear tyres. I have decided which rear tyre to use already, but not the front yet. There is not such a long straight here, so there are possibilities for us. But it is only Friday and I think Biaggi, Haga and Haslam will be in there also.”
Jakub Smrz: “I feel quite confident but we are still working to find a set-up for the race. For some laps the bike feels OK. We just need to improve the set-up and my general feeling on the bike. We are not perfect yet. The bike is basically the same as last year but we have a new front fork.”
Leon Haslam: “We’ve got some work to do to make me happy, but it’s just the usual stuff really, so nobody is getting worried at this stage. Really only Carlos (Checa) has been consistently -aster than me today and the ones who finished ahead of me in qualifying did their times as one-offs, so I am not too concerned. Everything has been progressing well today and we didn’t have any major problems. This is a fairly unique track and there are quite a few slippery bits that you have to be aware about. The nature of it favours twins, as you can see by the standings today. But I’m confident that the fine tweaks we will make tomorrow will improve the bike and let me lap more quickly.”
Sylvain Guintoli: “This track is very different to other tracks in that it is fairly flat and there are lots of corners and no big straights. For this track we changed the bike’s geometry quite a bit and improved the feel of the bike in the afternoon. Then it felt more comfortable and I am sure that the work we will do tomorrow will be another improvement. I hope that’s the case, because I don’t want to be in a situation where we have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to find a good set-up. This series is so competitive, that just two-tenths-of-second can lose you two rows of the grid, so I have to qualify as high up as possible to have any chance of a podium.”
Jonathan Rea: “We’ve had some issues today and a few things have gone wrong and conspired against us. However, we can see that all the problems with the bike point to the same sort of area, which is the overall balance, and we need to put some more weight on the front to help with the steering. Of course, I’m disappointed to be where I am and we’ve got to find some time to close the gap to the guys at the front. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll work through it and come back tomorrow morning with a fresh approach.”
Max Neukirchner: “OK, so I’m back in 16th, but at least the problems we had today are not as bad as they were at Portimao. I had some chatter problems this afternoon and it’s difficult to hold a line and speed going into and through the corners. The exit is OK though, and we’re following a certain direction that is improving things – they are just not improving fast enough at the moment.”
Andrew Pitt: “Today wasn’t too bad, especially considering that we are still using the standard electronics on the bike. We’re pretty much at the limit of what can be done with these electronics and we’ll be moving on to a better package as soon as it has been fully tested and ready. So today we focussed on the chassis and suspension side and tried to get the bike to ride the bumps and work well round the whole circuit. We tried a lot of different thing, front and rear, to get a good balance and set-up on the bike. I’m quite pleased because there are only a couple of areas round the track where we’re losing out (especially exiting the turns) and if we can get them sorted out we’ll be far more competitive for sure. Having no data from before doesn’t help us at all, so we have to try and do an awful lot of work in a very short time, but that’s why we’re here and hopefully all the hard work will pay off.”
Roland Resch: “I have had no problems with my body today and I feel pretty good. I think I’m probably about 95% fit, but my shoulder didn’t give me any concern at all today and that makes me happy. For me, today was not about lap times, but about getting comfortable with the bike again and finding a good rhythm. The more comfortable I get, the more the lap times will decrease. I hope to improve quite a bit tomorrow and then enjoy my races on Sunday.”