Giugliano edges Haslam to claim first pole of the season
The Tissot-Superpole sessions ahead of tomorrow’s fifth round races for the 2014 eni FIM World Superbike Championship were held in cold and wet conditions at Donington Park near Derby.
After yesterday’s dry sessions the FP4 session this morning proved to be all important ahead of the two grid deciding sessions this afternoon.
Making it through from Superpole 1, Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma Aprilia) and Ayrton Badovini (Team Bimota Alstare) joined the already seeded riders after the combined Free Practices. Leon Camier (BMW Motorrad Italia) and Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Kawasaki) both crashed out unhurt at the fast Starkeys section of the track before posting a time. The pair were joined by an unlucky Badovini who also fell spectacularly at the end of the session on the fast uphill left hander. Niccolo Canepa had a slow speed crash at the Melbourne Hairpin while Fabien Foret (Mahi Team India Kawasaki) elected not to ride in the session.
Superpole 2 was held in similarly tricky conditions and after an enthralling 15 minutes it was Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team) who emerged as the Pole Position man. Joining Giugliano on the front row in both races tomorrow will be Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) and Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing Team).
Row two comprises Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki), Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) and Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team).
In the session Guintoli Rea and Giugliano all crashed and remounted after posting their fastest times.
Davide Giugliano: “I would like to dedicate this, the second pole of my career, to my whole team but also to the family of Andrea Antonelli. My first Superpole came in Moscow last year but was followed by the tragic accident, so I therefore wish to dedicate this to Andrea’s family. That said, I’m really pleased with today’s result and thank my entire team; we’ve worked well all weekend and I had a really good feeling all day today. Tomorrow’s races won’t be easy, regardless of whether conditions are wet or dry. My rivals are strong here so I think we’re in for two hard-fought races.”
Leon Haslam: “Since breaking my leg last year we haven’t had the best of times or been where we want to be in terms of results, so for me it’s a good start to my season to get on the front row. We’ve still got a little bit more work to do for the dry set-up but I had a good feeling with the bike in the rain at Assen and we’ve made a lot of steps over the winter. Fingers crossed I can get the start that’s needed and we can be in there with the front guys tomorrow.”
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes almost clinched Pole Position for his debut home race in the eni FIM Superbike World Championship at Donington Park in the UK, eventually qualifying fourth at the end of today’s Superpole.
Eugene Laverty and Lowes – who lives locally to the circuit – got down to business with their Yoshimura-powered machines on a very wet Leicestershire circuit. A tentative start saw riders carefully-judging the track conditions, but with seven minutes to go the times began to come: Lowes initially took second position as the countdown struck five minutes, but with two minutes to go he set the fastest time of the day to hold provisional pole.
Bettering his lap again on his next attempt, but with other riders still on track, Lowes just missed the opportunity for a final flying lap; finishing the session with a time of 1’45.258 and lining-up at the front of the second row in fourth position for tomorrow’s two races.
Laverty, who felt confident with his Suzuki machine in the morning’s free practice session, struggled to replicate the feeling for the afternoon’s Superpole, preventing him getting the best out of his GSX-R1000 in the wet conditions. The Irishman concluded the qualifying session frustrated with 10th place, but is determined to make it count come race day.
With just 15 minutes of track action the focus of the day, incessant rain greeted the riders for Superpole’s qualifying session as Ducati’s Davide Giugliano clinched the pole position – breaking the 1’44 barrier – with local rider Leon Haslam next in line.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki‘s race day begins at 09:00hrs local time for tomorrow’s morning warm-up. The first slice of Sunday’s action is scheduled for 12:00hrs, with the second race being held at 15:00hrs. The team is hoping the strong support from the home crowd will spur-it-on for a successful showing at the Leicestershire track.
Alex Lowes: “It was a tricky session with the wet conditions today. Obviously I’m disappointed not to be on the front-row for my home race but I’ve been pretty good all weekend and the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki has been working well. I’m looking forward to tomorrow whatever the conditions. Hopefully we can keep improving ready for the races and challenge at the front.”
Eugene Laverty: “The bike felt ok in the wet session this morning but I had no feeling in the rear for Superpole; right when it counts the most. It looks like it could be a dry race tomorrow and the Suzuki GSX-R felt good in the dry on Friday. It will be tough starting from the fourth-row but I will give it my all!”
Paul Denning – Team Manager: “I’m very happy for Alex and his crew to perform so strongly, not only today in the wet but all weekend so far. Fourth on the grid is a great position to start but he just got a little bit unlucky in getting the chequered flag while he was in pole position, with three of the fast guys still being out there improving their times. There is no question Alex could have found that extra three-tenths to be on pole given one-more lap but overall we’ve still got to be very pleased with the performance; and wet or dry, we’re looking forward to tomorrow. Eugene has got a lot of work to do from the fourth row, but I really think he has the capability to get in the battle with the front guys. He is frustrated with the result today and as a team we will try and turn that frustration into positive energy tomorrow and get the best result we possibly can.”
Pata Honda Report
Pata Honda rider Leon Haslam will start tomorrow’s two fifth-round World Superbike championship races at Donington Park in the UK from the front row of the grid after setting the second-fastest time in today’s Superpole.
The 30-year-old, who lives just half-an-hour’s drive from the 4.023km circuit set a time of 1m45.009s, just 0.1s from pole-setter Davide Giugliano, after heavy and persistent rain had left Donington wet and slippery.
Haslam’s Pata Honda team-mate Jonathan Rea crashed out in the wet conditions at Donington’s Melbourne hairpin after looking comfortable for a front row start for tomorrow’s two 23-lap races.
The 27-year-old from Northern Ireland had been in a provisional front row slot and was on target to set the fastest time before sliding off with just three minutes of the session remaining.
Leon Haslam – P2 – “Since breaking my leg last year we haven’t had the best of times, or been where we want to be in terms of results, so for me it’s good to get my season started on the front row here at Donington. We’ve still got a little bit more work to do for the dry set-up but I had a good feeling with the bike in the rain at Assen and we’ve made a lot of steps over the winter. Fingers crossed I can get the start that’s needed and we can be in there with the front guys tomorrow.”
Jonathan Rea – P8 – “It was a tough Superpole for me to finish up eighth, and I don’t think we’ve started from the third row this season. So a really good couple of starts have to be on the menu tomorrow for me to get away with the front guys. I made a really costly mistake in the latter stages in a pivotal moment in the session, just when everybody was starting to go really fast. I was feeling really comfortable and setting a really good pace. I’m quite happy with our bike in the rain conditions like we had but with the weekend schedule we’ve really struggled with dry time. With three dry sessions on the bounce we weren’t able to spend the evening analysing data from the day to come back strong. I think we’re a little under prepared for the race tomorrow but I have confidence that my guys will give me a C BR to battle at the front tomorrow, regardless of the conditions.”
Pieter Breddels – technical co-ordinator – “Jonathan was riding really well in the wet and was the fastest guy on track until his small crash. That left him in eighth because the others were able to continue to improve. For tomorrow, we have a plan for the dry and he’s next to Tom Sykes on the grid so I’m sure he’ll not let Tom get away! I’m really happy that Leon kept it together during the wet session and ended just a tenth off pole. After a long struggle, everything has come together and it’s fantastic to see him at the front. He has a confidence boost in case it’s dry too, but to see him starting from the front row is inspiring and I wish him two good races.”
Aprilia Racing Report
The rain which had been forecasted for the past few days finally arrived to dampen the beautiful English track at Donington and to nullify all the work the teams had done during Friday practice. The extreme conditions – it is also quite cold – enhanced Marco Melandri’s riding quality as he rode his Aprilia to just two tenths of a second off the top time, taking a spot on the front row of the starting grid with the third best time.
Marco Melandri: “Today’s result was important. I want to thank the guys on the team because they are really working hard. Superpole was hard. The first part of the track – the fastest part – was slippery and then the last long braking sections were quite difficult in the wet. It was hard to find the limit, so tomorrow we’ll have to see first of all how the weather shapes up and then we’ll prepare as best as possible for the races.”
Sylvain Guintoli, a specialist in the wet, started off strong, firmly establishing himself in the top positions and even taking first, but a sliding crash in the second part of the session (without consequences for the Frenchman), forced him to come into the pits, keeping him from defending his top time. Once back on the track with time for only one more lap, Guintoli in any case was able to improve on his time, taking a spot on the second row with the fifth best time.
Sylvain Guintoli: “As always a wet Superpole makes a mess of things. I felt good, but I slowed down for a lap and the tyre probably cooled down so I took a slide. I was able to get back on the track and take a flying lap even though the bike wasn’t performing at 100%. It could have gone better but in these conditions there is always a risk and second row is fine to get off to a good start tomorrow.”
The fully wet weather that had threatened the first day of qualifying eventually arrived for the second and final day, with Superpole 1 and Superpole 2 both held in soaking conditions.
Baz and Sykes had qualified for Superpole 2 directly after the first day of action but the Kawasaki Racing Team’s SBK Evo class rider, David Salom, only made it to Superpole 1 initially and could not get into Superpole 2. He finished up 17th and will now start from the sixth row of the grid.
In dry conditions Sykes and Baz are genuine race winning contenders after going first and fourth respectively in the first day qualifying sessions. Salom was 15th after day one and all in the KRT squad are hoping for a dry raceday to maximise the full potential of their Friday performances in more predictable conditions.
In the wet in Superpole Baz found real improvements compared to some recent experiences, while Sykes knows that he can improve his wet performance in real race conditions compared to his post-Superpole ranking. He also knows that as the fastest qualifier in the three dry sessions on Friday he is particularly well-placed to have a strong weekend at his home round.
Baz, a former BSB competitor, is a big fan of racing in the UK and hopes he can have another two positive raceday experiences to let him challenge for his first race win of the 2014 season.
Loris Baz: “It was very slippery but I think this was the best bike set-up I have had in the wet since 2012. We have been struggling a bit in the wet sometimes even though people think we should be the favourites in these conditions, but we also had some problems this year on a wet track. My crew chief Pere found some good things in the space between free practice and Superpole and that helped me a lot. I hope it is dry tomorrow but if it is wet have improved our pace and I hope we can improve our settings even more. Now I am confident whatever the conditions are – I am a lot more confident than I was this morning.”
Tom Sykes: “We just ran out of time in Superpole 2. In wet conditions the Donington Park track surface holds a lot of water. I am on the third row but our situation is not as bad as it looks. I was at least a couple of laps behind my competitors in Superpole because I had to come in and make a change to the set-up. We made it and improved the bike but because we came into the pits the tyres got very cold. I just needed on more lap in Superpole 2 to make more progress on the times. I only did five laps but some riders made eight. Track time is all we needed and the setting on the bike was a little bit closer to where I needed to be for these conditions. I am disappointed to be on the third row but I know there is more in the package.”
David Salom: “It was very slippery and very difficult in this track in these conditions. In Assen it was not so good for us in the wet and now here I have more of a feeling from the bike but I need more confidence in wet conditions, I do not know if it will be wet or dry tomorrow but I hope it will be dry! My hand is OK because in the wet it is less important, but it is not as good as I thought it would be in dry conditions. When I arrived here I had a lot of pain from it. Three qualifying sessions on Friday did not help me either.”
The World Supersport qualifying session at Donington Park was held in tricky conditions as the rain began that had been falling steadily for several hours began to fall more heavily as the green flag indicated the start of the 45 encounter.
Jack Kennedy fell victim to the conditions on his first flying lap, losing control of his CIA Insurance Honda at McLeans corner but was able to remount and return to the garage, giving his mechanics some work to do.
Fabio Menghi (VFT Racing Yamaha) slid off at the fast Starkeys sections and was taken to the medical centre for precautionary checks while Tony Covena (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress) also crashed at the infamous McLeans corner.
Raffaele de Rosa (CIA Insurance Honda) joined the ever growing list of fallers, high siding at the final turn. His team mate Nacho Calero also had an off track moment but was able to keep his Honda on two wheels before he too came to grief at Coppice with 15 minutes to go. Florian Marino (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress) was a mid-session faller at the esses, the current joint leader of the series thankfully able to walk away unhurt. Fellow Frenchman Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta RC-Yakhnich Motorsport) fell in the final five minutes at Goddards as Fraser Rogers (SMS Complus Honda) and Alessandro Nocco (San Carlo Puccetti Kawasaki) both fell at McLeans.
At the flag and after an exciting yet crash filled session it was Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) that claimed Pole Position ahead of Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Team India Kawasaki) and Kev Coghlan (DMC-Panavto Yamaha) who will complete the front row for tomorrow’s 20 lap race.
PJ Jacobsen (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress), Marco Bussolotti (Lorini Honda) and Alessandro Nocco (San Carlo Puccetti Kawasaki) will make up row 2.
British wildcard rider Sam Hornsey (Anvil TAG Triumph) rode superbly to finish 10th with fellow British rider Fraser Rogers grabbing 19th.
Jack Kennedy was able to get back on track for a few laps eventually qualifying 18th.
Local rider Josh Harland (Josh Harland Racing) has claimed the pole position for tomorrow’s 10 lap Pata European Junior Cup, powered by Honda race. The young Brit, who clocked in 1’47.965s in yesterday’s first qualifying session Donington Park, will be joined on the front row of the grid by Spaniards Javier Orellana (Europ Food SL) and Marc Miralles (Construccions Miralles). Points leader Augusto Fernandez (WIL Sport) ended up fourth.
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