New track best for Spanish ace
Phillip Island (Australia), Saturday 26 February 2011 - Carlos Checa (Althea Racing) set the quickest lap ever recorded around Phillip Island on a Superbike machine when he powered his Ducati 1098R to a time of 1 minute 30.882 seconds, thus grabbing the first Superpole trophy of the year. Checa, one of last year's winners in Australia, was just a fraction ahead of Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia) who put in a quick lap towards the end, but who was eventually edged off the top slot by 0.013 seconds. Sylvain Guintoli gave the new-for-2011 Effenbert - Liberty Racing Ducati team a great championship baptism with third place on the grid, after yet another good run at Phillip Island for the Frenchman. He was almost on the podium on a four-cylinder machine last year and is set on taking a top three in one of Sunday's races this year.
Carlos Checa: "Basically we worked well all weekend, when I passed down the straight I did 1'30.8 but I didn't know I was first until the mechanics stopped me. But the difference is very small between first and second. At the end of the day of course we like to be first, but we did a good job all weekend and that's the best thing. We will see how I can manage the race, 22 laps here is long and we must try and keep the tyres fresh for the end and see what position we have."
Max Biaggi: I'm very happy to start 2011 qualifying in a good way. From last year to this year we've improved and that proves that the test we did in December gave us a lot of satisfaction. There are a few things I'd like to improve, just like my engineers, but it's impossible to do everything. Maybe in the future but so far I'm so happy."
Sylvain Guintoli: "This is one of my best and favourite tracks, but more than this I think I'm just gelling well with the Ducati and enjoying riding this bike so much. Here really was the first time I got to ride it, without needing some tyres for the bad weather we had during testing. It's been such bad weather testing but now I'm enjoying things. A great result for the team on its debut."
Leon Haslam: "A week ago we had a few problems and I was worried about not making the qualifying in the top 16, so to have made the progress the team has done is all credit to them, they have really put in the effort. I'm really very happy to be on the front row, hopefully I can get a good start and we can get a similar result to last year."
Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) made a great effort to take his S1000 RR machine to the fourth slot, having made many runs on race tyres in the previous practice sessions. Haslam, a race winner at Phillip Island in 2010, just managed to hold off a last-minute attempt by Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team) to join the fast gang of four on the front row. Jakub Smrz (Effenbert - Liberty Racing) was next up followed by a rejuvenated Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad) who was riding at his home race. Italian star Marco Melandri concluded his first Superpole with eighth place, an impressive performance from Marco as he makes a quick transition to Superbike racing.
The third row of the grid is now headed by Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare), who punched his way to ninth, one place ahead of Tom Sykes' Kawasaki Racing Team machine. Tom lost some of the pace he had recovered in the earlier qualifying session, when he had been third fastest on combined times.
Aussie wildcard rider Josh Water (Yoshimura Suzuki) was once more on the top rider mix, running 11th and one place ahead of the gritty Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda). Rea had two crashes today but rallied to ride again and take a third row start. Joan Lascorz, Noriyuki Haga, James Toseland and Ruben Xaus were the first riders to exit Superpole qualifying in round one, and they now share the fourth row of the grid.
David Salom (Kawasaki Motocard.com) emerged as the surprise poleman for tomorrow's Supersport race after practice and qualifying was turning into a battle between Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Broc Parkes (Kawasaki Motocard.com). Salom's time of 1 minute 34.070 seconds came right at the very end of the session but it was good enough to earn the young Spaniard his best qualifying result so far, and his maiden pole in this class. The front row was completed by Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) and Parkes in fourth, with those four riders a little clear of the rest and demonstrating good race pace.
Two Italians line up in fifth and sixth on row 2, both on Yamahas, with ex-SBK man Luca Scassa (ParkinGO) just ahead of a very competitive Roberto Tamburini (Bike Service). They will be joined on the second row of the grid by full season rookie rider Florian Marino (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Chaz Davies (Yamaha ParkinGO). Danish rider Robbin Harms was a consistent ninth on his Harms Benjan Honda, the first rider to be more than a second from Salom.
After two big crashes this weekend, one in which he tore a tendon in his thumb, Gino Rea could only manage tenth for Step Racing Honda, while James Ellison was one place behind on his Bogdanka PTR version, as he recovers from very recent keyhole surgery on his left knee. WSS veteran Massimo Roccoli was the 12th and last rider on row three, as he competes on his Lorenzini by Leoni Kawasaki for the first time in WSS. Danilo Dell'Omo was the first Triumph rider home in qualifying, in 13th place for the Suriano team.