Half a second at Misano is a very, very long time. At a short track like this, gaps are measured in tenths, not seconds. The gap from 5th to 12th, for example, is 0.505. Yet the gap from Marc Marquez on pole to Jorge Lorenzo, the rider with the second fastest time, was 0.513 seconds. A huge difference.
Despite another one of his fast crashes in free practice, from which he keeps walking away almost unhurt, Marquez stayed calm, posted an impressive fast lap in his first run of Q2, and then followed it up by obliterating Casey Stoner’s 2011 Misano pole lap record by over two tenths of a second.
The lap was stunning – another trademark of Marquez since his switch to MotoGP – and beyond the capability of anyone to follow. The Repsol Honda man looked unstoppable during qualifying.
If you have aspirations of winning the championship, the first qualifying session of the year is your first chance to stake your claim. Qualifying is the moment you state your intentions, show everyone what you have, and what they are up against.
The rest of the year, pole position is nice, but the most important thing is to be on the front row, and get a good start. But at the first qualifying session of the year for the first race of the year, you need to send your opponents a message: This is what you are up against. This is what you face if you wish to beat me.
Champions know this. At Qatar, the champions made their presence felt, and announced their intent to the world. In MotoGP, the defending champion – and the man who starts the year as favorite – set a pace that none could follow, robbing upstart Cal Crutchlow of what would have been his first pole.
In Moto2, Pol Espargaro made a mistake, crashed, and corrected his error as soon as his bike was rebuilt, pushing hard to take pole in the dying seconds of the session. And In Moto3, Luis Salom took his first ever Grand Prix pole by putting it on the line when it mattered, seeing off all-comers in the final moments, while Maverick Viñales gritted his teeth to ride through the pain and grab 2nd on the grid.
Qualifying for the MotoGP class is to undergo a shake-up starting from next year. Instead of the current one-hour qualifying format, two sessions of 15 minutes will settle the starting grid, with the riders divided into two groups on the basis of their combined times through the three sessions of free practice.
The new system is a hybrid of the current system and the superpole format used by World Superbikes and Formula One. An intial selection will be made on the basis of the combined times of the first three sessions of free practice, with the 10 fastest riders going straight through to QP2, with the rest left to fight it out in QP1.
The 2 fastest riders in the 15-minute QP1 session will go through to QP2. The original 10 fastest from free practice will be joined by the 2 fastest from QP1 to fight it out for the top 12 grid positions in the 15-minute QP2 session. To compensate for the shortened qualifying sessions, a 30-minute-long fourth session of free practice will added before qualifying starts.
Last year we combined the QP2 times from World Superbike with the Qualifying times from AMA Superbike, to see how America’s finest motorcycle racers stack up on against the international championship of a similar name. Of course there are different regulations in each series (not to mention a variety of other factors), which vary a bit on how teams are allowed to modify their race bikes, so there isn’t an exact comparison between the two series, but it makes for something interesting to mull over with your morning coffee, and the results this year may surprise you.
It is our displeasure to report that Saturday’s World Superbike Superpole qualifying event at Phillip Island was cancelled after a fatality occurred during the Australian Superstock 600 support race. In an incident very similar to the one that took Marco Simoncelli’s life last year, 17-year-old Oscar McIntyre collided with fellow ASTK racers Luke Burgess and Michael Lockhart on the second lap of Saturday’s support race. Though McIntyre received immediate medical attention, he succumbed to his injuries, and event organizers eventually cancelled the Superpole sessions. The last time a World Superbike sessions was cancelled was at Donington in 1998 and due to the snow.
Accordingly, this means that Sunday’s racing grid will be determined by the best lap times from the Qualifying Practice 2 session, which puts Tom Sykes at the pole position, followed by Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa. Look for a strong showing from the Kawasaki contingency on Sunday, but the smart bets are still on the Aprilia of Biaggi and the Ducati of Checa, which have been consistently fast all week. Get excited race fans, the first race of the 2012 World Superbike Championship is about to be underway.