Phillip Island: Series Saturday qualifying report

Rookie Spies (Yamaha) spices up Superpole at Phillip Island Texan WSBK rookie Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) powered to the first Superpole win of the season in an exciting opening round session at Phillip Island in Australia. The 24...

Rookie Spies (Yamaha) spices up Superpole at Phillip Island

Texan WSBK rookie Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) powered to the first Superpole win of the season in an exciting opening round session at Phillip Island in Australia. The 24 year-old took the top slot on his YZF R1 machine with a time of 1 minute 31.069 seconds. In the new 'knock-out' formula, Italian Max Biaggi scored a second place grid slot, his best ever performance in Superpole, on the brand new Aprilia, the Italian manufacturer returning to Superbike after a seven-year break. The front row of the grid is completed by Britain's Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Jakub Smrz of the Czech Republic, top Ducati rider on a private Guandalini machine.

Spies, who had never even seen the Australian circuit before last week, set the first pole of his career in his first-ever WSBK race: "There was a lot of pressure on me today but first congratulations to these guys, I know how fast the lap time was and we all did a great job. The Superpole was really good, there was a lot of anticipation, a lot of nerves inside the pit box to get the first pole of the year. It's going to be hard tomorrow, with 7 or 8 guys up front and the real race will start 8 laps from the end. Luckily we have a good starting spot, that's all that matters and hopefully we can be there at the end. Just like Biaggi said, I was very surprised at how many people started doing 31s in the second session, we really had to grit our teeth in the last one and put together a good lap."

Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing) commented : "It's a big sensation for me to come back after so many years to Aprilia with this new project, the bike is good already. We still have to see which is the best way to go but for now qualifying was very good and exciting . I don't know about race pace for tomorrow but this is an encouraging start. When I saw everyone going 31s, I thought 'wow, that is fast'. I had some trouble in the free practice before qualifying, we swapped bikes and it was not my favourite one but we made a great job."

Jonathan Rea, who will be racing in only his second WSBK event tomorrow, declared : "Superbike for me is getting more and more exciting all the time, a big thanks to the team for helping me make the transition from Supersport so easy. I've got a lot of learning to do but every time I jump on the bike it's getting better. The new structure of Superpole was really exciting, with everyone in the box thinking should I go or should I stay, but lucky for us we used the first qualifier in the second session and got into the top 8. I saw Ben's lap time in the session before and it left me with a 31.3 with one qualifier left. We made a little mistake in the last run but I don't think we can go much faster than that."

Jakub Smrz was also delighted with his Superpole performance: "For us it is a very good start to the season because we didn't test here like the other guys. Now I am very pleased with the bike especially because this morning we had some small problems, then in Superpole everything went better. It's very nice to be ahead of the factory Ducatis but it's only the start of the season and what is most important is to get a good result in the race."

The exciting new Superpole formula saw the early elimination of four of the top 20 riders (Corser, Rolfo, Xaus and Hill). The two BMWs, which had performed well until then, were excluded after a conservative choice of tyre. The second run saw the elimination of Nakano, Kiyonari, Kagayama, Sykes, Haga, Neukirchner, Byrne and Parkes, with Ducati Xerox's Noriyuki Haga the prize scalp.

Rea and Smrz headed the new generation of Superbike riders, the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland the best Honda in the timesheets, while his team-mate Carlos Checa from Spain also looks promising in seventh place. Row 2 will be made up of Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox), Leon Haslam (Stiggy Racing Honda), Checa and Regis Laconi (DFX Ducati), while Haga faces an uphill struggle in the two races as he has to start from the fourth row of the grid.

FIM Supersport World Championship

Kenan Sofuoglu took the pole slot for the opening World Supersport round. It was the 24-year-old from Turkey's seventh career pole, and it came with a new circuit record of 1 minute 34.320 seconds. Honda have won five of the last six editions of the Australian Round but this time the opposition promises to be tougher. Second slot went to Spanish youngster Joan Lascorz, new signing for Kawasaki who have changed team and riders and who are aiming for the top. Reigning champion and last year's winner Andrew Pitt lines up third in his home race, with Britain's Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) looking menacing on the outside of the front row. Team-mate Fabien Foret suffered a partial dislocation of his right shoulder in a fall and is at risk for tomorrow's race. Garry McCoy (Triumph BE1), who had gone so well on the opening day, slipped from fourth to eighth behind Italian Michele Pirro (Yamaha Lorenzini).

-credit: wsbk

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Series World Superbike
Drivers Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Andrew Pitt , Noriyuki Haga , Ben Spies , Fabien Foret , Kenan Sofuoglu , Michel Fabrizio , Leon Haslam , Jakub Smrz , Jonathan Rea , Cal Crutchlow , Laconi Régis , Joan Lascorz , Michele Pirro , Phillip Island