Ben Spies sits on top of the leader board at today’s qualifying at Phillip Island, and is the first winner of World Superbike’s new Superpole system. Quashing any comments from naysayers who still harbored considerable doubts about Yamaha’s recruit from the AMA, Spies showed that he is the real deal in WSBK and could be one of the riders to watch in the series. Tomorrow, he gets two chances to show what he can do it in the race. Max Biaggi follows the American rookie with a strong showing for Aprilia’s WSBK comeback, which has stirred some controversy on exactly how similar it is to the production version of the RSV4. Continue reading for times from qualifying.
The format World Superbike’s Superpole is relatively simple, and is borrowed from Formula 1:
- The 20 riders who set the fastest times during the two ordinary qualifying practice sessions go through to the new Superpole;
- At the end of the afternoon, Superpole is run, consisting of three 12 minute sessions, with a 7 minute break between the sessions. The riders are given two qualifying tires, which they can use at any time during any of the three Superpole sessions. But only two super-soft qualifiers spread over three sessions means that they will have to use race tires only in at least one of the sessions;
- At the end of the first Superpole session, the 4 slowest riders are excluded, and grid positions 17 through 20 assigned in order of time;
- At the end of the second Superpole session, the 8 slowest riders are excluded, and grid positions 9 through 16 are awarded in order of the time set in the second session;
- In the third and final Superpole session, the 8 remaining riders compete against each other in a straightforward fight for grid positions, with places awarded based on the times set in this third and final session.
The new system has caught a few teams off-guard and not knowing what to do. Both of BMW’s riders failed to make it through to the second session of Superpole, after gambling on a soft race tire in the first round, and saving their qualifiers for the later rounds.Thus, neither Ruben Xaus, nor Troy Corser ended up where they wanted to be on the grid. They were joined by Roberto Rolfo and Tommy Hill, Hill being the victim of an earlier blown engine, and not enough laps to set a fast time.
The fastest riders at the end of the first session were Johnny Rea on the Ten Kate Honda, who had been quickest in both the qualifying and free practice sessions on Saturday, along with Yamaha’s Ben Spies and Ducati’s Noriyuki Haga.
The second session caught more people out. The lead switched constantly, the list of qualifiers shifting all the time. It was Regis Laconi who put a fast lap in right at the death to take the lead, setting a time of 1’31.050, which was to turn out to be the fastest lap of the weekend. Laconi led from Xerox Ducati’s Michel Fabrizio and Stiggy Honda’s Leon Haslam.
The biggest victim of the second Superpole session was Noriyuki Haga. The factory Ducati rider was tipped as title favorite for this season, but a tactical gamble saw Haga slump to 13th fastest, and eliminated at the end of the session. Haga was part of a veritable Japanese exodus, with Ryuichi Kiyonari, Shinya Nakano and Yukio Kagayama all missing the cut. The Japanese riders were joined by two Brits, a German and an Australian, with Tom Sykes, Shane Byrne, Max Neukirchner and Broc Parkes all sharing the fate of Haga et al.
With the exclusions over, the final session turned into a straight fight for supremacy and a front row start. Early in the session, Ben Spies used the first of his two available qualifiers to set the quickest time, and set pole with a 1’31.069. His second qualifier went back to Pirelli unused, the time good enough for pole at his first attempt. Max Biaggi took the brand new Aprilia RSV4 to second on the grid, the Aprilia faring much better on its first outing than the BMWs. Johnny Rea, who had been fast all day, claimed third on the grid, with Jakub Smrz, the satellite Ducati rider who shook up the field yesterday, taking the fourth and final spot on the front row. Michel Fabrizio ended up 5th, ahead of Leon Haslam, Carlos Checa and Regis Laconi.
In the end, the grid showed the importance of strategy, of choosing the right moment to set a fast time, and the need for the judicious use of qualifying tires. Laconi’s time in session 2 was a fraction quicker than Spies’ time set in session 3, yet the Frenchman will start from the back of the second row. Similarly, the times of Michel Fabrizio and Leon Haslam would have put them ahead of Max Biaggi, had they set them in the final session, rather than session 2. As the season develops, we can expect to see a range of tactics being tried in the knockout-style Superpole, before all of the teams have figured out the best strategy for the whole session.
Results from the WSBK Qualifying:
|1||19||B. Spies||USA||Yamaha YZF R1||1’31.069|
|2||3||M. Biaggi||ITA||Aprilia RSV4||1’31.402|
|3||65||J. Rea||GBR||Honda CBR1000RR||1’31.596|
|4||96||J. Smrz||CZE||Ducati 1098R||1’31.600|
|5||84||M. Fabrizio||ITA||Ducati 1098R||1’31.837|
|6||91||L. Haslam||GBR||Honda CBR1000RR||1’32.112|
|7||7||C. Checa||ESP||Honda CBR1000RR||1’32.537|
|8||55||R. Laconi||FRA||Ducati 1098 RS 09||1’32.649|
|9||56||S. Nakano||JPN||Aprilia RSV4||1’31.843|
|10||9||R. Kiyonari||JPN||Honda CBR1000RR||1’31.860|
|11||71||Y. Kagayama||JPN||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1’31.867|
|12||66||T. Sykes||GBR||Yamaha YZF R1||1’31.881|
|13||41||N. Haga||JPN||Ducati 1098R||1’31.907|
|14||76||M. Neukirchner||GER||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1’31.916|
|15||67||S. Byrne||GBR||Ducati 1098R||1’32.119|
|16||23||B. Parkes||AUS||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1’32.719|
|17||11||T. Corser||AUS||BMW S1000 RR||1’32.873|
|18||44||R. Rolfo||ITA||Honda CBR1000RR||1’32.997|
|19||111||R. Xaus||ESP||BMW S1000 RR||1’33.152|
|20||33||T. Hill||GBR||Honda CBR1000RR||1’33.363|
|21||24||B. Roberts||AUS||Ducati 1098R||1’33.588|
|22||100||M. Tamada||JPN||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1’33.709|
|23||86||A. Badovini||ITA||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1’34.174|
|24||25||D. Salom||ESP||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1’34.194|
|25||31||K. Muggeridge||AUS||Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9||1’34.341|
|26||99||L. Scassa||ITA||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1’34.390|
|27||77||V. Iannuzzo||ITA||Honda CBR1000RR||1’35.767|
|28||15||M. Baiocco||ITA||Kawasaki ZX 10R||1’36.363|