2005 WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP KICKS OFF IN QATAR Losail (Qatar), Thursday 24 February: Qualifying for the opening round of the 2005 World Superbike Championship got underway this afternoon at the brand-new Losail circuit in the Persian Gulf...
2005 WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP KICKS OFF IN QATAR
Losail (Qatar), Thursday 24 February: Qualifying for the opening round of the 2005 World Superbike Championship got underway this afternoon at the brand-new Losail circuit in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, with Ducati Xerox Team riders Régis Laconi and James Toseland setting third and tenth quickest times respectively.
After the morning's free practice had turned into a washout due to heavy rain, this afternoon's one-hour session saw non-stop action as the riders made the most of a dry track. Laconi, who remained at the top of the timesheets for the first half of the session, was one of only three riders to break through the 2m02s barrier. The 29 year-old Frenchman was pleased with his eventual time of 2m01.980s, just over half-a-second behind front-runners Troy Corser (Suzuki) and new arrival José Luis Cardoso (Yamaha).
"I am quite pleased with third fastest time, but the conditions on the track after this morning's rain are not yet perfect", declared Régis. "Today we concentrated on the front forks with a different setting to try and improve the bike on a race tyre and then I put the soft tyre on at the finish. Tomorrow we will concentrate on going faster, in particular in the last sector where I am losing a bit of time. There is a lot of action at the top of the timesheets, this year will be an incredible championship for sure".
Reigning champion Toseland eased his way back into the seat of his Ducati 999F05 as he was still feeling somewhat stiff after Sunday's come-off, in which he suffered several bruises. The 24-year-old British rider was not too concerned about his position in first qualifying and was confident there was more to come in tomorrow's second and final session.
"I'm just getting back up to speed, I wasn't that relaxed on the bike today because I didn't realise just how big that crash was", declared Toseland. "I'm still a bit stiff but tomorrow morning I'll be a lot better because I'm loosened up by riding. I was tenth but I feel my ideal position was seventh today and all I need is more laps to get back into the rhythm. The bike doesn't have an ideal setting at the moment, but a little bit more from the bike and me riding as I did in the tests and I'm sure we'll be fine. I should be doing the times of the top 3 and I will be doing them eventually", he concluded.
TIMES: 1. Corser (Suzuki) 2m01.244s; 2. Cardoso (Yamaha) 2m01.388s; 3. Laconi (Ducati Xerox) 2m01.980s; 4. Gimbert (Yamaha) 2m02.217s; 5. Neukirchner (Honda) 2m02.236s; 6. Kagayama (Suzuki) 2m02.284s; 7. Vermeulen (Honda) 2m02.469s; 8. Chili (Honda) 2m02.507s; 9. Haga (Yamaha) 2m02.687s; 10. Toseland (Ducati Xerox) 2m02.754s; etc.
TV COVERAGE British Eurosport (UK): Friday 25 February 17.45 - 18.45 Superpole (delayed), Saturday 26 February 07.30 - 13.45 SBK 1 + SSP + SBK 2 (live); Eurosport (Europe) Sunday 27 February 21.30 - 22.30 all races (highlights).