Marco Melandri (1:57.634) took his first World Superbike pole at Motorland Aragon, holding off Max Biaggi, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa in the Spanish heat. Though the Saturday Superpole sessions were moderately uneventful, they were not without drama as riders jostled to move forward and fight over pole. Melandri’s Yamaha teammate, Eugene Laverty, will start sixth as Kawasaki undergoes something of a resurgence. Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz will join him on the second row in fifth and seventh, respectively.
Somewhat shockingly, both factory BMWs were knocked out in Superpole 1, leaving Leon Haslam and Troy Corser to start from fourteenth and sixteenth. However, satelitte rider Ayrton Badovini qualified on the second row in eighth. Jonathan Rea did not compete, having had surgery Monday for the injuries he sustained during a warm-up crash last weekend at Misano.
Melandri took an early lead at Aragon, leading both the first free practice and the first qualifying practice. Though the Italian has a small advantage in having raced at the circuit last year in MotoGP, WSBK uses a slightly longer circuit that includes a hairpin at the end of the back straight. Melandri led Checa, Badovini, Camier, and Sykes in the morning practice and Checa, Haga, Camier, and Sykes as the top five in the first qualifying session in the heat Friday afternoon.
In the final qualifying practice, Checa was back on top. He led a very close QP, one in which the top sixteen who moved on to Superpole were covered by just one second. Smrz, Biaggi, and Sykes completed the provisional front row, with Melandri having dropped down to seventh fastest. Meanwhile, Badovini continued to outpace his factory BMW colleagues on his satellite bike, finishing the session eighth fastest. Just before Superpole, Biaggi led the final free practice by a half second, with Checa, Melandri, Sykes, and Haga the top five. Knocked Out in Qualifying Practice: 17. Ruben Xaus, 18. Chris Vermeulen, 19. Roberto Rolfo, 20. Lorenzo Lanzi.
Sykes was the last rider out onto the track for the fourteen minutes of Superpole 1. Checa (1:58.714) took the unsurprising early lead, posting the fastest time with ten minutes remaining. He was followed by Camier, Haslam, Corser, and Laverty while Fabrizio, Guintoli, Biaggi, and Sykes were in the knockout zone. Melandri soon moved up through the order, going third fastest behind Checa and Camier with eight minutes remaining. Haslam, Corser, Laverty, Sykes, Berger, Lascorz, and Aitchison were the top ten. Quickly, Biaggi was third fastest, with Haga slotting into fourth.
With just over five mintues remaining, Lascorz, Guintoli, Badovini, and Smrz were in the relegation zone, and most riders were back in their garages for final adjustments. The top eight remained in their garages as the bottom half of the timesheets went back out to improve their times and continue on to Superpole 2. Badovini secured his position, moving up to fourth from the knockout zone, while Laverty and Sykes also returned to the track. With moments left, Corser, Berger, Lascorz, and Smrz were about to be dropped, only for Lascorz to go seventh fastest. Smrz improved, but not enough, and the factory Yamaha riders were a surprising eleventh and twelfth fastest. However, Laverty (1:58.621) put in a quick lap to go fastest at the very end, leading Checa, Camier, and Guintoli as the provisional front row. Knocked Out in Superpole 1: 13. Jakub Smrz, 14. Leon Haslam, 15. Maxime Berger, 16. Troy Corser.
Next, the riders were out for the twelve minutes of Superpole 2, with Biaggi (1:57.841) the early leader and the only man to post a 1:57s lap so far for the weekend. Checa, Badovini, Lascorz, and Guintoli completed the top five, only to have Laverty slide into third fastest halfway through the session. At that point, Melandri, Fabrizio, Sykes, and Aitchison were in the drop zone. Melandri’s next lap put him fifth fastest, putting Haga in danger.
In the final minutes, only those in seventh through twelfth were on track. Haga, Fabrizio, Sykes, and Aitchison were attempting to move forward to fight for the first two starting rows in Superpole 3. Biaggi still led by two tenths with a minute remaining, as Haga put Camier in the drop zone by going seventh fastest, only to be dropped to eighth as Camier jumped to fifth. That left Guintoli in the knockout zone. However, Sykes put Haga back down to ninth on his final lap, having gone fifth fastest. Biaggi (1:57.841) retained his lead, with Checa, Laverty, and Badovini the provisional front row. Knocked Out in Superpole 2: 9. Noriyuki Haga, 10. Sylvain Guintoli, 11. Michel Fabrizio, 12. Mark Aitchison.
Sykes, Camier, Melandri, and Lascorz joined Biaggi, Checa, Laverty, and Badovini in the fight for pole during the ten minutes of Superpole 3. Melandri (1:57.634) led Biaggi by over three tenths at the halfway point, with Camier, Checa, Laverty, Sykes, Badovini, and Lascorz the eight riders. Soon, Lascorz and Badovini were faster than Sykes, but Melandri remained fastest. However, Biaggi was closing in lap times, cutting Melandri’s lead in half with two minutes to go. Apparently confident, or perhaps out of tires, Melandri remained in the garage as the minutes ticked away. In the end, he had enough and won his first WSBK pole, with Biaggi, Camier, and Checa completing the front row for Sunday’s two races.
Superpole Results from World Superbike at Motorland Aragon, Spain:
|1.||33||Marco Melandri||Yamaha WSBK Team||1:57.634||–|
|2.||1||Max Biaggi||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||1:57.790||0.156|
|3.||2||Leon Camier||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||1:58.279||0.645|
|4.||7||Carlos Checa||Althea Racing Ducati||1:58.472||0.838|
|5.||66||Tom Sykes||Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing||1:58.641||1.007|
|6.||58||Eugene Laverty||Yamaha WSBK Team||1:58.756||1.122|
|7.||17||Joan Lascorz||Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing||1:59.194||1.560|
|8.||86||Ayrton Badovini||BMR Motorrad Italia||1:59.591||1.957|
|Out After Superpole 2|
|9.||41||Noriyuki Haga||PATA Racing Team Aprilia||1:58.566||0.725|
|10.||50||Sylvain Guintoli||Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati||1:58.640||0.799|
|11.||84||Michel Fabrizio||Team Suzuki Alstare||1:58.950||1.109|
|12.||8||Mark Aitchison||Team Pedercini Kawasaki||1:59.680||1.839|
|Out After Superpole 1|
|13.||96||Jakub Smrz||Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati||1:59.355||0.734|
|14.||91||Leon Haslam||BMW Motorrad||1:59.367||0.746|
|15.||121||Maxime Berger||Supersonic Racing Ducati||1:59.507||0.886|
|16.||11||Troy Corser||BMW Motorrad||1:59.565||0.944|
|Not qualified for Superpole|
|17.||111||Ruben Xaus||Castrol Honda||2:00.432||1.249|
|18.||77||Chris Vermeulen||Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing||2:00.507||1.324|
|19.||44||Roberto Rolfo||Team Pedercini Kawasaki||2:00.678||1.495|
|20.||57||Lorenzo Lanzi||BMW Motorrad Italia||2:00.776||1.593|
Source: WSBK; Photo: © 2011 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0