Checa again the ace in the WSBK pack
Phillip Island (Australia), Friday 25 February 2011 - Results of first qualifying at Phillip Island saw Carlos Checa (Ducati Althea Racing) stake his claim as number 1 favourite for the Superbike wins in the opening round on Sunday. The Spaniard stopped the clocks with a time of 1 minute 31.577 seconds, a tenth quicker than his free practice time of the morning, but slower than his best from recent testing - simply because the warmer track surface delivered less outright grip. Another man on the move was Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati Effenbert - Liberty Racing), the Frenchman doing exceptionally well to come within three-tenths of Checa, despite suffering a fall in the morning session.
Carlos Checa: "Basically, we worked with the tyres this afternoon, just to make choices for raceday. I felt good today but I think the grip was just a little bit less from the racetrack. We used the 'big' rear tyre and had similar results to the previous ones, so if we do that I prefer to continue with the existing tyres for now. Tomorrow we will just work towards raceday again, do a comparison with the tyres and then do some longer runs on the tyre we expect to use for the race."
An impressive sub-1m32s lap time was set by Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team) and the WSBK rookie had the satisfaction of finishing one place ahead of 2010 world champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia). Guintoli's team-mate Jakub Smrz posted fifth best time, and Leon Haslam overcame some early set-up issues to go sixth. He was the top BMW Motorrad Motorsport rider today, as Troy Corser went 11th.
Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare) had a harmless crash towards the end and finished seventh, one place up on impressive new WSBK talent, Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team). Lascorz, a top runner in WSS until his promotion to Superbike this year, was only just over half a second from Checa. Castrol Honda rider Jonathan Rea, who is still battered and bruised from his big testing get offs, was ninth fastest, placing all the competing manufacturers in WSBK this season in the top nine places in the first qualifying session.
Yoshimura Suzuki rider Josh Waters, a wildcard at this event, was an impressive tenth on the exquisitely prepared GSX-R machine, leading his fellow countryman Corser, while Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team) was 12th, and one of many top names who ended up in the gravel at one point or other today.
Tom Sykes, Noriyuki Haga, James Toseland and Leon Camier rounded out the top 16.
Quickest time in the first Supersport qualifying session was recorded by former champion Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), as he continues his run of impressive form. The Fast Frenchman had to work for it however as he crashed at the start and then only came out for five flying laps, edging the young Spanish rider David Salom (Kawasaki Motocard.com) off the top in the last few seconds. Salom has an official bike at his disposal for the first time in his career and has been making immediate good use of it.
Another up-and-coming youngster, 20 year-old Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) went third quickest ahead of fellow Brit Chaz Davies who is now getting to grips with his Yamaha ParkinGO machine after some trying times in testing recently. Good news also for the other Yamaha team on the grid, Bike Service, with Roberto Tamburini getting the better of Luca Scassa (Yamaha ParkinGO) by a whisker. James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda) continued his recovery with the ninth fastest time, a remarkable feat for a rider who underwent keyhole surgery on his left knee, on Wednesday.