WSBK: Superpole Sessions at Magny-Cours Nearly Prove Costly to Championship Leader

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Jonathan Rea won pole for the 2011 World Superbike round at Magny-Cours with a new circuit record (1:37.490), beating out fellow front-row starters Eugene Laverty, Carlos Checa, and Leon Camier. The latter’s teammate, Max Biaggi, is again missing this weekend. It is his third missed race weekend in a row, as a practice injury sustained at the Nurburgring continues to heal slowly. Though championship leader Checa starts on the front row for both of Sunday’s races, his Superpole sessions were touch and go. He was in the knockout zone in S1 until a post-flag flying lap put him fastest. He remained on the bubble for most of S2, only barely making it to the fight for pole. The championship hunt continues this weekend, after Melandri’s late race resurgence in Race 2 in Imola kept Checa from winning then. The Spaniard needs only finish three points ahead of Melandri to clinch the title this weekend.

Checa (1:39.013) started off the weekend quickest in the first practice session on Friday, leading Sykes, Corser, Haslam, and Smrz as the fastest five. Both Fabrizio and Xaus has minor crashes, with the former finishing the session. Xaus complained of neck pain and feeling dizzy, leaving him in the medical center and eventually declared unfit to race. In the first qualifying practice, it was again Checa fastest, with a near record lap to take the provisional pole. Close behind were Laverty, Guintoli, Sykes as the provisional front row.

In the final qualifying session before the Superpole fights to pole, Melandri was the happy winner of provisional pole. Despite having languished in the mid-pack to rear for the previous sessions, the Italian improved to go more than a tenth faster than Guintoli, with Smrz and Badovini completing the provisional front row. Checa was down in tenth, but he led the final practice session. Rea, Laverty, Smrz, and Melandri completed the fastest five in that final session before Superpole.  Knocked Out in Qualifying Practice: 17. Javier Fores, 18. Roberto Rolfo.

Superpole 1:
Camier was the last out of the garage to start the first of three superpole sessions, though it was Rea on top with ten minutes left. Laverty, Berger, and Halsam were on the provisional front row at that time, with Checa, Haga, Camier, and Fabrizio the bottom four. Soon though, Laverty had moved up to second fastest, then fastest of all, with Melandri third. Checa’s first fast lap put him fifth and safe to move on, leaving Guintoli, Badovini, Fabrizio, and Smrz in the knockout zone with seven minutes remaining.

Laverty remained on top, with Rea, Melandri, and Lascorz the provisional front row when five minutes remaining as the riders were back in their garages. The top three stayed in the pits while much of the rest of the field headed back out to move up and forward to S2. However, local French favorite Guintoli was the next to take the lead (jumping up from thirteenth), with Sykes and Camier also eclipsing Laverty’s time with a minute to go. At that point, Haga, Aitchison, Badovini, and Corser were the slowest men. Checa had dropped down to twelfth, then thirteenth in the final moments, only to post the fastest lap of the session (1:37.780) after the flag  to leap out of the relegation zone. Joining him on the provisional front row were Guintoli, Sykes, and Camier, with Laverty, Haga, Rea, Berger, Haslam, Lascorz, Melandri, and Corser also moving forward. Knocked Out in Superpole 1: 13. Jakum Smrz, 14. Michel Fabrizio, 15. Mark Aitchison, 16. Ayrton Badovini.

Superpole 2:
Haslam was the early leader in the second session, with Rea, Camier, Berger, and Lascorz the early riders to set times. Sykes, Checa, and Laverty had not yet set times with eight minutes remaining, though Sykes’ first fast lap put him on the provisional pole. He still led with four to go, as Haslam, Rea, and Camier completed the fastest five. Haga, Lascorz, Berger, and Corser were in the knockout zone, with Checa heading back out onto the track in eighth. Guintoli soon moved into second as the championship leader looked to stay safe. As the flag flew, the bottom four remained the same. In the end, Sykes (1:37.650) remained fastest, with Guintoli, Haslam, Rea, Camier, Laverty, Melandri, and Checa moving on to S3. Knocked Out in Superpole 2: 9. Noriyuki Haga, 10. Joan Lascorz, 11. Maxime Berger, 12. Troy Corser.

Superpole 3:
Once again, Camier was the last man out of the garage in the final session for pole. Rea led with just over five minutes remaining, followed by Laverty, Camier, Checa, Guintoli, Sykes, Haslam, and Melandri for the front two rows of the starting grid. Soon Checa moved up to third fastest as the riders finalized the bikes for the last moments of the fight for pole. Rea was back on track with a minute remaining, though Laverty, Checa, and Melandri remained in the garage. Checa also headed back out with seconds remaining. In the end, neither had time to make up time and Rea won pole with a new lap record for Magny-Cours.

Superpole Results from World Superbike at Magny-Cours, France:

Pos. No. Rider Team Time Diff.
1. 4 Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda 1:37.490
2. 58 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team 1:37.600 0.110
3. 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati 1:37.932 0.442
4. 2 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 1:38.006 0.516
5. 50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 1:38.094 0.604
6. 66 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 1:38.094 0.604
7. 91 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad 1:38.382 0.892
8. 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team 1:38.562 1.072
Out After Superpole 2
9. 41 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia 1:38. 0.487
10. 17 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 1:38. 0.554
11. 121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 1:38. 0.697
12. 11 Troy Corser BMW Motorrad 1:38. 0.866
Out After Superpole 1
13. 96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 1:38.524 0.744
14. 84 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 1:38.565 0.785
15. 8 Mark Aitchison Team Pedericini Kawaski 1:38.623 0.843
16. 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 1:38.687 0.907
Not qualified for Superpole
17. 112 Javier Fores BMW Motorrad Italia 1:39.230 1.059
18. 44 Roberto Rolfo Team Pedericini Kawaski 1:40.982 1.811

Source: WSBK; Photo: Pirelli (Facebook)