Ducati’s in-form factory rider Chaz Davies continues to push his case to win his first world superbike race at Phillip Island, after setting the fastest time in today’s practice sessions ahead of the season’s opening race tomorrow.
Although the 30-year-old didn’t improve his best time in this afternoon’s second 60-minute outing, his earlier benchmark of 1min30.189secs was enough to see him remain on top and primed for Saturday’s 12.30pm Superpole qualifying.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #7) – 1:30.189 (1st)
“Day one was OK, and I’m happy about our performance. On my best lap I missed a couple of tenths through the last sector; potentially we could have lapped in 1’29, which would have been quite impressive, but we can still improve our race pace. Since the first test session and throughout the whole winter we’ve been methodical, chipping away and trying not to make radical changes to the package. This track is a bit more difficult for us, we had to make a few more adjustments to our base, but we found a better setup today and I hope to be able to further improve tomorrow. People keep mentioning our winning streak at the end of last year, but we’ll take the race as it comes. If there’s an opportunity to win, we’ll go for it. Otherwise, we’ll take as many points as possible. Consistency is the key.”
Davies holds the current WorldSBK lap record (1:30.949) at Phillip Island, but a victory has proved to be elusive for the Welshman around the 4.445km circuit – even though he gave it a red-hot go in 2016 before crashing out on the last lap after a titanic battle with eventual world champion Jonathan Rea.
“It will be exciting times on the weekend and one lap pace I think will be completely different to 22 lap pace. It is important to manage the race in the right way. We did 1’30.2 on a race tyre today so I dread to think what Superpole is going to be with qualifiers! You are going to have to get into the thick of the 1’29s to get on pole. I am going to give it a good go anyway tomorrow because I feel good on the bike. We still have a few little bits for me to try to maximise acceleration when the tyre drops. We have had a Monday and Tuesday test here so we should be pretty much ready to go. We will go out and check the bike over to get ready for Superpole. With the slightly longer 25-minute FP3 on Saturday this year you can make a long run, and that is important.”
Rea (Kawasaki, 1:30.255), Xavi Fores (Ducati, 1:30.486), Tom Sykes (Kawasaki, 1:30.573), Marco Melandri (Ducati, 1:30.627) and Alex Lowes (Yamaha, 1:30.817) all remained in the same positions after FP2, although Melandri and Lowes both improved their best laps this afternoon – as did eight other riders on the 21-bike grid.
“I think we are OK on race distance but we are just struggling for an initial lap time. We will see how it goes tomorrow as we still have a bit of work to do. But on lap 18 of a race simulation I was only three tenths slower than my best lap. We just need to find a bit of a set-up change to manage a bit better in the windy conditions. We have gathered some information and tomorrow we will try to be a bit sharper again. It was tough with the headwind so it definitely affected everyone in the afternoon session. Hopefully I can make an improvement tomorrow so it will not affect me quite as much.”
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #33) – 1:30.627 (5th)
“This morning, the conditions were trickier than yesterday because it was very windy on track and we had to progressively get reacquainted with the bike. In the afternoon, however, we found the right feeling once again and the Panigale R felt really balanced overall. I did many laps on the same tyre, but not consecutively, so we still don’t know whether we can be as consistent as Davies and Rea over the race distance. Anyway, we tried different tyre options to figure out the best choice for the race, gathering some valuable data. Superpole will be extremely important, then we’ll see what strategy to adopt. I don’t have a specific goal in mind for the race, I just want to go out there and have fun, then we’ll see what comes our way.”
Meanwhile, Italian Lorenzo Savadori 1:30.847) rocketed from 13th to seventh in FP2 on his factory Aprilia, with Nicky Hayden (Honda, 1:31.099), Markus Reiterberger (BMW, 1:31.129) and Jordi Torres (BMW, 1:31.13) next in line.
“I am happy with how today went. We made a lot of progress over our times from testing, but for sure we need to find some more pace on longer runs. I had a bit of a scary moment in FP1 with a close highside, but I was able to rescue the bike and I am OK. I still need to find more rhythm on the bike, but I know the team is working very hard and I am sure tomorrow we will be better. I am glad to be in Superpole 2 at the first race, and I think my lap time was good. We know that we need more speed, but today was a good step for us.”
Nicky Hayden 69 – 8th / 1’31.099
“It’s nice to be at Phillip Island and get the season back off. We had a few ideas to try on the bike from testing here earlier this week: we made a little bit of a step forward, with the track conditions being a bit better and with the new spec tyres brought by Pirelli, one of which I particularly liked. I was able to do some decent times with it but we still need to find some more speed ahead of race one. The competition is really tough in the group where I’m in at the moment. Being in Superpole 2 is surely good news so I hope we’ll be able to qualify well tomorrow and get a good race result.”
The top 10 are seeded straight through to Superpole 2, joined by the two fastest riders from the preceding Superpole 1. The 12 riders in Superpole 2 will then battle it out for grid positions at the pointy end of the field ahead of the season-opening 22-lap race at 3:00pm.
Eugene Laverty (Aprilia, 1:31.287), Michael van der Mark (Yamaha, 1:31.351) and Leon Camier (MV Agusta, 1:31.351) are among the championship heavyweights who will attempt to progress from Superpole 1, reserved for the riders who completed today’s practice in positions 11-21.
“This morning wasn’t a great session, but we made some good progress in the afternoon. The pace of the grid was slower, but the top guys didn’t go any quicker and we managed to go a lot faster than we have this weekend. I had some chatter again in the front which was difficult to handle, but we are making headway; I’ve already gone 0.6s quicker than I did at the test, so there is a definite positive direction. We still need to find some pace and to miss out on Superpole 2 by one-tenth was frustrating, but I’m sure tomorrow will be better for us.”
Laverty is a proven Phillip Island performer, having won two WorldSBK races on the fast and flowing circuit, one behind Rea.
Aussie wildcard Josh Brookes (Yamaha, 1:31.973) struggled with top end speed and was 18th today, 1.784secs behind Davies.
World Superbike Friday Pratice – FP1 and FP2 Combined Times
Chaz Davies 1m30.189 / FP1
Jonathan Rea 1m30.255 / FP1
Xavi Fores 1m30.486 / FP1
Tom Sykes 1m30.573 / FP1
Marco Melandri 1m30.627 / FP2
Alex Lowes 1m30.817 / FP2
Lorenzo Savadori 1m30.847 / FP2
Nicky Hayden 1m31.099 / FP1
Jordi Torres 1m31.121 / FP2
Markus Reiterberger 1m31.129 / Fp1
Eugene Laverty 1m31.287 / FP2
Michael Van der Mark 1m31.351 / FP1
Leon Camier 1m31.405 / FP1
Randy Krummenacher / 1m31.468 / FP1
Alex De Angelis 1m31.490 / FP2
Stefan Bradl 1m31.707 / FP1
Ayrton Badovini 1m31.712 / FP2
Josh Brookes 1m31.973 / FP2
Ramos 1m32.055 / FP2
Jezek 1m32.129 / FP2
Russo 1m32.563 / FP1
Now for the confusing bit…
In Dorna’s efforts to make World Superbike as confusing as possible, both these ‘Free Practice’ sessions are actually timed towards qualifying, with the rankings from those sessions then making up the start order for Saturday afternoon’s Superpole session.
Before that Superpole session, however, is a third free practice session at 1020 on Saturday morning, this session lasts for only 25-minutes, but the results from this session do not count toward the qualification for Superpole.
This season, Superpole results will only decide the grid for race one, while the grid for race two will be decided on results using a strange new format, never used before.
We extrapolate on this machievallan new regimen below.
Top three riders in race one move back to row three for race two, and see 1st and 3rd reverse their positions.
Riders who finished in 4th, 5th and 6th in race one, will be promoted to the front row for race two.
Riders who finished in 7th, 8th and 9th in race one, will start from the second row in row two.
It’s fiendish with its brilliance in ensuring nobody has any idea what is going on.
The opening WorldSBK race is scheduled to get underway at 1500 Saturday afternoon, a 22-lap journey amounting to 97.8km around the 4.445km Phillip Island circuit. Race two is slated for 1500 on Sunday afternoon.
American Patrick Jacobsen has continued to be the pacesetter in the Supersport World Championship at Phillip Island today after dominating the start of official practice.
After ruling the roost in the final pre-season test at the circuit earlier this week, Jacobsen simply resumed where he left off by roaring around the GP circuit in a sizzling 1:33.087, nearly half a second ahead of Frenchman Jules Cluzel (Honda, 1:33.467).
Jacobsen is chasing his first WorldSSP win at Philip Island in Sunday’s 18-lap race, while Cluzel was the winner in 2014 and 2015 when he was riding for MV Agusta.
Five of the six manufacturers on the 2017 WorldSSP grid finished inside the top 10 today, with Italian Federico Caricasulo (Yamaha, 1:33.-602) in third from new teammate Lucas Mahias (1:33.625), Roberto Rolfo (MV Agusta, 1:33.633), Hikari Okubo (Honda, 1:33.796), Alex Baldolini (MV Agusta, 12:33.940), Gino Rea (Kawasaki, 1:33.948), Luke Stapleford (Triumph, 1:33.949) and Kyle Smith (Honda, 1:34.015).
It was a bittersweet session for Stapleford though, who crashed at the high-speed turn eight, just minutes after Aussie wildcard Matt Edwards (Triumph) also came to grief in the same spot.
Aiden Wagner (Honda), 1:34.271) was the leading Aussie in 14th, followed by Lachlan Epis (Kawasaki, 1:35.038) in 22nd, Anthony West (Yamaha, 1:37.639) in 24th Edwards (1:42.203) in 25th.
Defending WorldSSP champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki) is sitting out Philip Island because of injury.
WorldSSP Superpole qualifying will commence at 1:30pm tomorrow.
World Supersport Friday Pratice – FP1 and FP2 Combined Times
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