FABRIZIO (DUCATI XEROX) STORMS TO SECOND PLACE ON THE GRID FOR THE FIRST RACES OF THE 2010 SUPERBIKE SEASON TOMORROW AT PHILLIP ISLAND Phillip Island (Australia), Saturday 27th February : the first Superpole of the 2010 World Superbike season...
FABRIZIO (DUCATI XEROX) STORMS TO SECOND PLACE ON THE GRID FOR THE FIRST RACES OF THE 2010 SUPERBIKE SEASON TOMORROW AT PHILLIP ISLAND
Phillip Island (Australia), Saturday 27th February : the first Superpole of the 2010 World Superbike season took place this afternoon at a breezy Phillip Island, and Ducati Xerox rider Michel Fabrizio was undoubtedly one of the protagonists, putting in a strong and consistent performance to snatch second place on tomorrow's grid, and missing out on pole by just a fraction of a second. Team-mate Noriyuki Haga had a more difficult time, qualifying in tenth place for the opening races of the year. Of the first ten bikes on tomorrow's grid, five are Ducati 1198s, yet another a demonstration of the bike's competitiveness.
In this morning's qualifying, and on a much cooler track compared to yesterday, the three fastest riders from yesterday, Checa, Fabrizio and Haslam did not manage to improve on their best times but they nevertheless held on the top three spots on the timesheet, qualifying first to third for the afternoon's Superpole. Noriyuki, maintaining a similar pace to yesterday, preferred to work with a used tyre than change to a fresh one in the final minutes to record a fast lap, meaning that he qualified for Superpole in fourteenth place. It is interesting to note that the fastest seventeen riders lapped within seven tenths of a second of each other, a sure sign that this year's championship will be extremely hard fought.
As expected, Superpole was a close battle between the top eight. In the first of the three phases, 14 minutes in length, Nori immediately recorded a time fast enough for him to be able to return to the garage, safe in the knowledge that he had done enough. Michel meanwhile needed a tyre change before his fastest lap propelled him up the timesheets to third place, to easily proceed to phase two along with his team-mate.
In the second mini-Superpole both factory riders went out on qualifiers, Michel making a fast lap and Nori changing tyre mid-session. What seemed to be a clean lap for Haga unfortunately failed to equate to a fast enough lap, due to an apparent lack of rear grip which meant that Haga's Superpole finished here, with the tenth fastest time of the afternoon, although only two tenths off Michel's pace in the same session.
Michel, who still had a qualifier left to use in the final phase, pushed to the limit and it seemed that the pole position was within his grasp, but it all came down to a fraction of a second, with Michel ultimately closing in second place, just 0.016 of a second from Haslam on the Suzuki. Lining up in the first eight on tomorrow's grid are also the Ducati 1198s of Checa (Althea Racing) in fourth and Smrz (Team Pata B&G Racing) in sixth.
Three-time world champion Troy Bayliss is once again special guest at the Phillip Island circuit this weekend and it was he who presented former team-mate Michel Fabrizio with his Superpole trophy today. Troy will continue to work as a Ducati "ambassador" in 2010.
"Today's Superpole was very difficult but I am very happy with the final result. I lost out on the pole by just a fraction of a second which is a shame, but it's not the first time that that has happened and the important thing is that I'm on the front row tomorrow. I was happy with my flying lap, a clean lap, with no-one in front of me. Tomorrow will be an equally difficult challenge, and various riders, me, Haslam, Checa, Biaggi and Nori will surely be in contention. We know we have a good race pace and I'm feeling confident for the races."
"In the second phase of the Superpole I went out on a race tyre but even though it felt like a clean lap, the time was not quick enough and unfortunately that put me out of the fight, and I finished tenth. Tomorrow I will of course need to make a fantastic start but I am confident that I am able to do that. I apologise to Ducati for the fact that I'm on the third row but I will, as ever, do my best in the races. Last year I started from 13th and won the race so I know it is possible to achieve a great result regardless of grid position."