Sykes raises the bar with pole position and new best lap
The Tissot-Superpole ahead of tomorrow’s two WSBK races has been won by Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) after a blistering lap in hot and sunny weather at the Laguna Seca circuit in California. The current reigning champion and points leader of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship clocked in 1’21.811s, new outright best lap of the circuit, to claim the 23rd WSBK pole position of his career, his third in a row after the ones scored at Misano and Portimao.
Tom Sykes: “It was a really exciting Superpole. I knew that we would be struggling all weekend because many of our competitors are very strong here but you know, slowly but surely, we got the Ninja working much better and I’m a lot more confident for tomorrow. We put the Pirelli qualifying tyre in and I had a little stab at it, I also had a small moment down the Corkscrew but we put a great lap time together and I’m happy. The boys worked hard and it’s going be close tomorrow, I think there’s a number of people with great race pace so I look forward to it.”
In the final 15 minute, top 12 grid deciding session, the expectant American fans were not left disappointed after a series of fast laps kept them guessing as to who would emerge as the front row qualifiers. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) set the initial benchmark of 1.23.752s before being eclipsed by his team mate Marco Melandri. The Ducati pairing of Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies split the Aprilia duo before Guintoli reclaimed the top spot with 9 minutes to go.
At the flag it was reigning champion Sykes who lived up to his title of Mr Superpole, edging. Sylvain Guintoli and Chaz Davies by half a second. The top-3 riders were presented with the Tissot-Superpole Award by former WSBK champion Doug Polen.
Sylvain Guintoli: “Second position is not so bad. I made a fast lap, but my record lap from last year has been destroyed. Anyway, the first row is the most important thing because at this track it’s important to start well. I’m happy about that, we did our homework. I think they’re going to be two tough races, so I hope we can all enjoy them.”
Davide Giugliano, Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) grabbed 4th, 5th and 6th places on the grid respectively. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) crashed unhurt and will start 10th tomorrow.
The accolade of being the best classified EVO rider at the US round went to Niccolò Canepa (Althea Racing Team Ducati) in 12th position overall, the only EVO rider to make it through to the final shootout. Bryan Staring qualified 17th on the Grellini Kawasaki.
Christian Iddon (Team Bimota Alstare – EVO) fell in Superpole 1, with the British rider unhurt and able to race tomorrow.
Times: 1. Sykes (Kawasaki) 1’21.811 average 158.854 kph; 2. Guintoli (Aprilia) 1’22.339; 3. Davies (Ducati) 1’22.384; 4. Giugliano (Ducati) 1’22.422; 5. Melandri (Aprilia) 1’22.704; 6. Laverty (Suzuki) 1’22.725; 7. Haslam (Honda) 1’23.181; 8. Baz (Kawasaki) 1’23.242; 9. Elias (Aprilia) 1’23.358; 10. Rea (Honda) 1’23.501; 11. Lowes (Suzuki) 1’23.562; 12. Canepa (Ducati) 1’23.924; 13. Barrier (BMW); 14. Iddon (Bimota); 15. Salom (Kawasaki); 16. Badovini (Bimota); 17. Staring (Kawasaki); 18. Morais (Kawasaki); 19. Camier (MV Agusta); 20. Andreozzi (Kawasaki).
Tom Sykes secured his fourth pole position of the 2014 season on his official KRT Ninja ZX-10R during Superpole at the FIM Superbike World Championship round at Laguna Seca, setting a new best lap in the process. His team-mate Loris Baz finished up eighth on the grid and KRT SBK Evo rider David Salom was 15th, after an unusually tough Superpole qualifying session.
Sykes was the first SBK rider to ever dip under the 1’22 second barrier at Laguna Seca, with his 1’21.811 new best lap. It proved to be 0.528 better than any other rider after the sticky qualifying rear tyres were brought into play.
Also with a strong race pace set-up for his official machine Sykes is in confident mood for race day, after he and his crew had to work hard in practice to give him a bike that got easier to ride going into Superpole. Tom supplied the final ingredients of his own in his record breaking lap to take his 23rd career Superpole win.
Sykes, who won the first race at Laguna Seca here for Kawasaki in 2013, now starts in the best possible place for the two 25- lap races on Sunday 13th.
After a tough first day of qualifying at a circuit he had never visited before, Loris Baz had to enter Superpole one to get through to Superpole two today. He set the early fastest time in Superpole one then ran off track and toppled over in the dirt before remounting and working his way back to the pits. Loris recovered his composure and improved his time later in the session to leave Superpole one as the fastest rider. He ended up eighth fastest overall after Superpole two, earning a place on the third row of the grid.
KRT SBK Evo rider David Salom was Baz’s closest challenger in Superpole one for a time but he could not respond when other riders went faster and he finished up 15th on the grid for a fifth row start. He was not satisfied by his laps in qualifying but is much more confident in his overall race pace as he approaches two 25-lap races on Sunday 13th at Laguna Seca.
Tom Sykes: “To take pole here is very exciting especially after we struggled a bit earlier this weekend and because some of our competitors have been very strong here. Slowly but surely we have got the bike working much better and I am a lot more confident for tomorrow. It is crucial to be on the front row so when I put a qualifying tyre in I had a little stab at getting the best lap. I had a little adventure in The Corkscrew but I came out of the other side and we made it happen for the lap time. I am happy because it is a great lap time and the guys have all worked hard to achieve it. It’s going to be close tomorrow because a number of people have good race pace but I am looking forward to it.”
Loris Baz: “We improved today but I feel if we had the normal schedule, of two sessions on day one and then two more today, it would have helped us a bit more. I feel better today but yesterday I was far away and not riding so well. Today we were just missing some little things but I am sure we can find some good things in warm-up tomorrow. I was not at my best in practice at Portimao either but then the races were better, so we will be trying to find some good things tomorrow. The race is another thing from practice. If I can make a good start then I can learn a few things and follow them.”
David Salom: “I am not happy with my single lap time in qualifying but I am happy with the bike. For the race it should be good because we have strong pace in those conditions. I just did not make a very good lap in qualifying. We have a good bike set-up for the race but it is hard work around here. We have 25-laps each race tomorrow so it will be a busy race day!”
The official Aprilia Racing Team RSV4s are protagonists at Laguna Seca in the Superpole which decided the order on the starting grid for the Sunday races. In the qualifiers, as was seen already in the practice sessions, the gaps between the contenders were extremely small and the results were up in the air right down to the end.
Guintoli, in the lead for a long time after putting an excellent 1’22.339 on the boards to improve on the track record he set last year, finished the day in second place and will therefore be starting from the front row in the races tomorrow. The French rider also tried to take advantage of the soft qualifier tyre in a second flying lap, but his efforts were thwarted by an uncertainty in the first sector of the track.
Sylvain Guintoli: “Superpole didn’t go badly. Unfortunately Sykes put in a very fast lap. The front row is what counts. On a track as twisty as this one starting off strong and getting out front as soon as possible is essential. Like always we did our homework, preparing for the races the best way we know how. I think we’ll see two very close and exciting races so I can’t wait to get onto the track and I hope to have some fun!”
Marco Melandri finished with the fifth best time (1’22.704) that earns him the centre spot on the second row of the grid. This is a good position for a start which will definitely be important given the amount of potential protagonists in the top positions and considering the characteristics of the winding Californian track where moving to the front of the group immediately is fundamental.
Marco Melandri: “All things considered it was a good qualifier. The lap with race tyres didn’t go badly, but as usual I struggled a bit with the soft tyre, maybe partially because of my riding style. Tomorrow in the race I’m sure the fastest riders will try to get out front and pull the pin at the beginning, so breathing down their necks without letting up will be important. I hope I can get off to a good start so I can stay in the game until the end.”
Pata Honda Report
Pata Honda rider Leon Haslam will start tomorrow’s two ninth-round World Superbike championship races from the third row of the grid after setting the seventh fastest time in this afternoon’s Superpole at Laguna Seca in the USA.
The 31-year-old British rider, who has significantly improved his best time from last year’s race weekend at Laguna, lapped the 3.610km Californian circuit in a time of 1m23.181s on his Honda CBR1000RR machine in preparation for Sunday’s two 25-lap races.
His Pata Honda team-mate, Jonathan Rea, is racing at Laguna Seca for the first time and looked to be heading for a top six qualifying position in Superpole before crashing out at Laguna’s final turn. The 27-year-old from Northern Ireland remounted but was unable to improve his time, leaving him in tenth position on tomorrow’s grid.
Leon Haslam – P7, 1m23.181s – “Honestly, I didn’t quite get the most out of the qualifier but it’s the first time all year that I’ve gone quicker on a qualifying tyre than a race tyre. I was a little cautious but the bike was working pretty good. I thought we’d get two laps out of the qualifier but I kind of made a mistake on the first one and that was it. But I’m not too unhappy – maybe a top six was possible if everything had gone to plan, but I’ll take seventh. It’s the highest dry qualifying we’ve had for a while and I’m feeling pretty good on race pace. I’ll try to get away with the boys in front and see how we go.”
Jonathan Rea – P10, 1m23.501s – “I’m really disappointed with my Superpole result because I made a mistake in the final corner on my first lap with the Q and crashed. It made it very hard to go fast again, even though I was able to re-mount and go again. But I couldn’t go faster than I went on my race tyre. I’m really gutted because tenth place is a fourth row start and it’s a long way back, especially at a circuit like Laguna where it’s difficult to pass. It’s definitely made tomorrow tough work but you can look at these things two ways. I’m going to take the positive view and go out tomorrow and really do the best I can and fight for what I can achieve. I think I can enjoy that side of it because I know our pace is quite good. They guys have done a great job all weekend making the bike better and better and we’ve made good progress. It makes it more disappointing not to at least give ourselves a fighting chance for a podium with a good start, but we’ll do the best we can from the fourth row and I’m really up for it.”
Pieter Breddels – technical co-ordinator – “Leon has made more progress today but he didn’t really have much grip on the SC0 race tyre in the first part of Superpole. Then when he put the qualifier in he was a bit cautious because of that. But he put it in seventh place which is OK and his race pace is good, although we could do with a couple of tenths here and there. He’s been riding well though, and hopefully he can get a good start to be in a position to get a good finish. Jonathan made some steps and found some pace on race tyres but we still need a little more. It was very unfortunate that on his qualifying lap he was on his way to a second row finish until he crashed in the last corner. Luckily he wasn’t hurt but he couldn’t improve his lap time. Tenth place is not where we want to start but we will have to go with what we have and ho pe he gets a couple of good starts tomorrow.”