World Superbike – Round Three – Assen

After his superb FP1 performance this morning, Jakub Smrz (Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducati) repeated the feat in first qualifying, with a time of 1 minute 36.058 seconds. This leading performance was already under the race lap record pace and only a little over one second from the track best of 1 minute 34.944. The Czech Republic charger held off a trio of fast and furious Italians, led by Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team), Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team) and Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare), all four separated by just half a second.

An excellent fifth place was notched up by Kawasaki Racing Team man Tom Sykes, with early front-runners Troy Corser and Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) in sixth and seventh, after being the leaders of the entire session for some time. The two Irishmen, Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team) and Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) were next up, while points leader Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) was uncharacteristically down in eleventh slot.

Noriyuki Haga (Pata Aprilia Racing) placed tenth on the dummy grid, with rookie rider Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team) 12th, just behind his countryman Checa. Leon Camier, Biaggi’s team-mate slipped down to 13th, with Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda) in 14th place. Stand-in rider Barry Veneman (BMW Motorrad Italia SBK) was 16th, one place behind team regular Ayrton Badovini. Chris Vermeulen (Kawasaki Racing Team) went 19th in his latest comeback ride, finding a technical issue that prevented him from setting a faster time near the end of the session. One more qualifying session remains on Saturday, then Superpole takes place for the top 16 in combined qualifying.

1 Jakub Smrz Ducati CZE 1’36.058
2 Max Biaggi Aprilia ITA 1’36.287
3 Marco Melandri Yamaha ITA 1’36.494
4 Michel Fabrizio Suzuki ITA 1’36.550
5 Tom Sykes Kawasaki GBR 1’36.747
6 Troy Corser BMW AUS 1’36.876
7 Leon Haslam BMW GBR 1’36.989
8 Eugene Laverty Yamaha GBR 1’37.024
9 Jonathan Rea Honda GBR 1’37.073
10 Noriyuki Haga Aprilia JPN 1’37.106
11 Carlos Checa Ducati ESP 1’37.114
12 Joan Lascorz Kawasaki ESP 1’37.364
13 Leon Camier Aprilia GBR 1’37.373
14 Ruben Xaus Honda ESP 1’37.424
15 Ayrton Badovini BMW ITA 1’37.613

World Supersport

Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider Florian Marino made the most of his team’s home circuit advantage as he powered to the quickest time in first qualifying. Behind the young Frenchman can be found points leader Luca Scassa (Yamaha ParkinGO), just a fraction away from the top slot. Third place went to Spain’s David Salom (Kawasaki Motocard.com) followed by Sam Lowes on the Parkalgar Honda machine, putting three different types of machinery on the provisional front row. Chaz Davies (Yamaha ParkinGO) was on top slot in the early stages but then could only finish fifth, while the rest of the provisional row 2 is made up of Broc Parkes (Kawasaki Motocard.com), Robbin Harms (Harms Benjan Racing) and Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda). Gino Rea (Step Racing Honda) and Massimo Roccoli (Lorenzini by Leoni Kawasaki) rounded out the early top ten, with one qualifying session remaining tomorrow.

1 Florian Marino Honda FRA 1’38.945
2 Luca Scassa Yamaha ITA 1’39.121
3 David Salom Kawasaki ESP 1’39.191
4 Sam Lowes Honda GBR 1’39.291
5 Chaz Davies Yamaha GBR 1’39.519
6 Broc Parkes Kawasaki AUS 1’39.569
7 Robbin Harms Honda DNK 1’39.766
8 Fabien Foret Honda FRA 1’40.247
9 Gino Rea Honda GBR 1’40.273
10 Massimo Roccoli Kawasaki ITA 1’40.344
11 Roberto Tamburini Yamaha ITA 1’40.471
12 Vittorio Iannuzzo Kawasaki ITA 1’40.691
13 James Ellison Honda GBR 1’40.697
14 Miguel Praia Honda POR 1’40.848
15 Alexander Lundh Honda SWE 1’40.885

Superstock 1000
Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Ducati) made a one second leap forward from his morning time to go to the top slot in Superstock 1000 qualifying. Four-tenths behind was BMW Motorrad Italia STK man Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia STK), ahead of two more Ducatis on the provisional front row, the Barni version of Danilo Petrucci and the second Althea machine of Lorenzo Baroni. Fifth went to Andrea Antonelli (Honda Team Lorini) with Dutchman Roy Ten Napel (Domburg Honda) in a popular sixth.

Times: 1. Giugliano D. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1’39.538; 2. Barrier S. (FRA) BMW S1000 RR 1’39.915; 3. Petrucci D. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1’40.053; 4. Baroni L. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1’40.054; 5. Antonelli A. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 1’40.100; 6. Ten Napel R. (NED) Honda CBR1000RR; 1’40.178; 7. Massei F. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 1’40.965; 8. La Marra E. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 1’41.014; etc.

Superstock 600
Romain Lanusse (MRS Yamaha Racing France) set the provisional pole in the Superstock 600 class, the young Frenchman also recording a new best lap along the way, quicker than the one held by his compatriot Florian Marino. A full second behind Lanusse can be found Italian Bernardino Lombardi (Yamaha Martini Corse), ahead of 2010 Magny-Cours winner Jed Metcher (Yamaha MTM-RT Motorsports Team) from Australia. 15-year-old Italian Francesco Cocco (Yamaha Martini Corse) was next, ahead of Josh Elliot of the WTM Yamaha Team, while so far Joshua Day (Racedays Kawasaki) and Austin DeHaven (Trasimeno Yamaha) are finding the 600 category a tough baptism.

Times: 1. Lanusse R. (FRA) Yamaha YZF R6 1’41.580; 2. Lombardi D. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R6 1’42.653; 3. Metcher J. (AUS) Yamaha YZF R6 1’42.881; 4. Cocco F. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R6 1’43.204; 5. Elliott J. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R6 1’43.297; 6. Vd Mark M. (NED) Honda CBR600RR 1’43.306; 7. Calero Perez N. (ESP) Yamaha YZF R6 1’43.308; 8. Duwelz G. (BEL) Yamaha YZF R6 1’43.341; etc.

- Althea Ducati

the Althea Racing team and rider Carlos Checa worked hard today at the TT Circuit Assen, closing the free practice session in second place and first qualifying in eleventh, after carrying out some useful tyre tests.

Conditions remained fairly stable at the Dutch track today (track temperature 22˚C, air temperature 16˚C) and in the first practice session for the Superbikes, times dropped dramatically during the 60-minute session. Carlos immediately found good pace, positioning himself in the top three where he remained for the duration of the session, while continuing to lower his lap times with each exit he made. The Althea Racing flagbearer closed the practice with the second fastest time overall, despite losing a few tenths through the second section of the track.

In the afternoon, having studied the track conditions (less than hot), Carlos and his technicians decided to lap with the harder tyre solution, while many other riders went with the softer rubber to make the fast laps. Team Althea instead concentrated on understanding tyre performance, to better understand what direction to take if conditions on Sunday are similar to today’s. Satisfied with the work carried out, Carlos wil tomorrow concentrate in improving times. Today he closed in eleventh position, with a best time of 1m37.1.

Carlos Checa
“This afternoon we worked a lot with the harder tyre available to us. We saw that conditions were not warm enough for the softer solution to be useful. We had tried the soft this morning but you could see that after some laps the bike began to move a lot, telling us that tyre would be better for using in higher temperatures. We wanted to carry out this test and now we have a better idea of what to use if conditions on Sunday are as today. This morning I was up front and I think we have the pace to be in the leading group on Sunday too. Starting on the front row is quite important at Assen because it’s a track where passing is pretty difficult.”

- Yamaha Report

Yamaha World Superbike riders Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty experienced the historic Assen TT race track on their YZF-R1’s for the first time in this morning’s free practice session. Sunshine and a dry track proved ideal conditions to try the machine’s basic set up. The two Yamaha riders got straight down to business in order to find more suitable settings ahead of the aftrenoon’s first Qualifying session.

Melandri encountered discomfort with the handling of his machine and lack of grip on the Dutch track. Hard work throughout the afternoon saw a huge improvement, allowing him to put in a series of consistently fast laps and complete the session in third place. The Italian also tested various tyres solutions looking for the optimum set up ahead of tomorrow’s second qualifying and subsequent Superpole sessions

Teammate Laverty took advantage of the first practice session to regain confidence and feeling on his bike following the difficult weekend in the last round of the championship in Donington. Once satisfied this was accomplished he proceeded to work on various machine settings and tyre life to find a suitable solution for the day ahead tomorrow.

Marco Melandri – “We had a relatively difficult morning, experiencing a lack of grip and suffering with the handling of the bike. The team and I worked hard all afternoon. The crew did a great job trying resolving the problem and we made significant progress. There’s still some fine tuning to be done and we need to find the most competitive tyre for the race on Sunday . Tomorrow I’m going to concentrate on qualifying, I’m aiming to secure a front row position on the grid and I think we can do it.”

Eugene Laverty – “This morning was important for me to regain confidence on the bike. We had a very tough race weekend in the last round of the championship but I’m satisfied that I managed to put that behind me in today’s free practice session. We made progress this afternoon, improving on the chassis and finding more suitable tyres. I completed a longer run, almost a race run and put in respectable times. Completing the session in eighth is pretty good considering we spent the day working on the setting, so overall I’m relatively satisfied.“

Andrea Dosoli / Yamaha World Superbike Team Manager – “I’m quite happy with the start to the weekend in Assen. After improving on the set up of the bike both Marco and Eugene tried out some softer tyres and managed to put in faster laps. There’s still some work to be done but I’m confident that we are going in the right direction. It’s very important that both riders have good results in tomorrow’s qualifying and Superpole sessions, securing grid positions in the front two rows.”

- BMW Report

Everything goes according to plan for Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport at the third round of the FIM Superbike World Championship 2011 in Assen (NED). Works riders, Troy Corser (AUS) and Leon Haslam (GBR), finished the first qualifying session on their BMW S 1000 RRs in sixth and seventh. To save their soft tyres for tomorrow’s Superpole, both riders only went out on harder tyres. For a long time Troy and Leon lay first and second. They only slipped back in the classification in the last part of the session, when other riders switched to soft tyres to improve their lap times.

Troy Corser:
Fastest lap Free Practice: 1:37.583 min (P4)/Fastest lap Qualifying Practice: 1:36.876 min (P6)
“This Friday was fine, and this morning we had a good setting for the bike, based on last year’s settings and the test in Valencia. I was happy and comfortable with it. For this afternoon we made a few changes and went quite a bit quicker. At the beginning of the session we did a long run to get some laps on the tyre. That was quite consistent, so I am pretty happy with that as well. The setting of the bike is okay considering we only ran on hard tyres. I am happy. Of course it would be nice to be a bit further up the grid, but today it’s not so important as it’s only Friday. Everything is working the right way.”

Leon Haslam:
Fastest lap Free Practice: 1:37.606 min (P5)/Fastest lap Qualifying Practice 1: 1:36.989 min (P7)
“It was a pretty good Friday. It’s nice to be back at Assen, and I am feeling very confident on the bike. We made some progress in Valencia last week, so we were kind of making a set up with what we had there. I am feeling pretty confident. We were doing nearly the whole session with only one tyre. In Valencia we had a few new chassis parts, so setting them up for a new circuit was the priority today. Right now we need to concentrate on doing race runs. I am looking for tomorrow.”

Rainer Bäumel (Head of Race Operations):
“We are very happy with today, as everything is going according to plan. We have not used soft tyres so far, but saved them for tomorrow and today only ran on race tyres. I am pretty confident because, while everybody was on race tyres, which was until the last quarter of an hour, we were in front. So I think tomorrow will be even better for us.”

- Castrol Honda

Jonathan Rea set the ninth fastest time in this afternoon’s first qualifying session at Assen in Holland in preparation for Sunday’s two third round World Superbike championship races on Sunday.

Provisional pole position was taken by Czech rider Jakub Smrz as Rea’s Castrol Honda team-mate Ruben Xaus was 14th fastest for a provisional fourth row start for the two 22-lap races around the 4.452km Assen circuit.

With lower track temperatures at Assen this afternoon, Rea and Xaus spent much of the session testing tyre combinations to ensure durability in Sunday’s races, opting to keep back some of their allocation of softer rubber.

Jonathan Rea – P9 – We’re satisfied enough with today because we concentrated a lot on track temperature versus tyre combination today. With today’s conditions, some options aren’t working as well as others after about 15 laps and that’s where the races will going to won and lost, I think. It was the correct decision to go down that route today and, while we haven’t used so many tyres, we’ve got through a lot of work. The tyre we used at the end of this afternoon’s session wasn’t going to bring a lap time anyway and we hadn’t finished our race simulation. So I don’t think our position reflects where we actually are today, although there’s still some work to do in the first and middle sectors with the long corners at the back of the circuit. We’ve got some ideas and I was rushing into some corners, which ruined the exit. But we’ve got good data from last year that we can use so it’s not rocket science for us. We’re not out of the ball park and tomorrow I think we can improve our time and our position quite easily, so there’s no drama.

Ruben Xaus – P14 – We started well this morning and everything was looking OK but it’s a sensitive machine and at the level, on the limit, small changes can make a big difference. The track temperature was much lower this afternoon and we lost a lot of grip and references from this morning. I think we tried to change too many things this afternoon and I got a bit frustrated at the end. We tested different tyres this afternoon but we don’t have so many quantities of the better front tyre. I’m closer to the front in times and because the bike is still quite new, I need fewer changes to understand what changes are happening. We just need to put in different tyre options and gas it to settle into rhythm. It’s no big deal really, so tomorrow should be better

Ronald ten Kate – team manager – Last year Assen was our test track so we had done a lot of laps prior to the race. Now we need to do all that work during the weekend and instead of rushing into single quick lap times, we’ve concentrated on race settings, especially tyre wear. With the temperature here we’re just on the limit between two options. We’ve found a clear direction there which leaves us some of the softer option to use tomorrow, so I’m quite happy that everyone in the team is working calmly and correctly and moving forward. Tomorrow we’ll try to get both riders further up the grid. Ruben got a bit caught out by the conditions – being in between tyres and changes to the bike. He’s still in a learning curve on the bike but for sure we can improve things for him after a good look at the data this evening.

- Suzuki Report

Team Suzuki Alstare rider Michel Fabrizio ended the first day of World Superbike practice and qualifying at Assen with the fourth quickest time, happy with the job he and the team had done.

Conditions were good throughout the day at the Dutch circuit, although the morning sun did give way to grey clouds in the afternoon. Fabrizio finished first practice in 16th place, but improved dramatically to fourth and in contention for Pole during the afternoon timed session aboard his GSX-R1000.

Czech rider Jakub Smrz (Ducati) dominated both sessions today, ending with a lap of 1:36.058 – three tenths of a second inside the lap record set by Jonathan Rea last year. Second quickest was reigning champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia), with Marco Melandri (Yamaha) third, less than a tenth-of-a-second ahead of Fabrizio. The top six bikes today were all different manufacturers and just one-and-a-half seconds separated the top 13 riders.

Michel Fabrizio – 4th, 1:36.550: “I am quite happy, because I think we did a very good job today. We didn’t panic after the morning session, when we were 16th, but just went about our job professionally and got our reward as a result. We didn’t even use a soft tyre until the end of this afternoon’s qualifying, so I am particularly happy. I have a good feeling with my bike and my lap times have been pretty consistent when I did a bit of a long run his afternoon.

“Unfortunately, I am not at 100%, because I have stomach upset. My son was ill at the start of the week and he gave me his bug. It doesn’t affect me too much, but of course, I would prefer to be in the best condition possible.

“Assen is a very technical track and it’s hard to shave off those last fractions of a second. I prefer the ‘old’ Assen, but I guess most of us do. It’s very important to be on the first row of the grid here, because the first turn is a bit of a funnel and you do not want to get held up there. If you don’t get through it, in the front or up with the leaders, it’s very hard to get back into contention.

“This is my first time here on the Suzuki and the feeling is very different to racing a twin. This bike changes direction much more easily and is less physical. The last chicane used to be very hard – especially at the end of a long race – but my Suzuki is going through it very well and so I am really looking forward to the races.”