WSBK: Rainy Superpole at Miller Motorsports Park Proves to Be a Challenge for Some

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Carlos Checa (1:58.315) took pole from Jakub Smrz on his last lap of Sunday’s Superpole qualifying for the 2011 World Superbike round at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Factory Yamaha riders Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty completed the front row of starters in a Superpole session marked with damp and drying conditions and a couple of crashes. Leon Camier, who will start twelfth, nearly ended his qualifying before it began with a huge highside on his first lap. Also at the end of the session, Max Biaggi, who will start seventh, had a minor incident in which he fell over at slow speed in the muddy grass. Sylvain Guintoli, Troy Corser, Biaggi, and Ayrton Badovini will start on the second row for tomorrow’s races.

Checa was his usual fastest self in the first free and qualifying practices on Saturday, setting times well ahead of the rest despite issues with his Ducati. Camier, Biaggi, Smrz, and Fabrizio completed the fastest five riders in the first session, while the Aprilia duo were again second and third in the first qualifying practice. Sykes and Corser were the provisional fourth and fifth place starters. Waters, in his wild card entry for Yoshimura Suzuki, just squeaked through to Superpole in fifteenth fastest.

The final qualifying practice saw no improvement in times, as the rain continued to fall in the desert of Utah. Camier was fastest in the wet session, followed by Smrz, Haslam, Checa, and Guintoli the top five with conditions improving as the afternoon progressed. Still recovering Toseland was forced to rely on his Saturday lap and was unable to move forward for Superpole while also injured Chris Vermeulen did not come to the American round. Knocked Out in Qualifying Practice: 17. Jaon Lascorz, 18. James Toseland, 19. Mark Aitchison, 20. Maxime Berger, 21. Roberto Rolfo.

Superpole 1:
The riders were right out into the cold and damp conditions as the first third of Superpole got underway. Corser was the early leader, with a laptime of 2:02.321, followed by Guintoli, Haslam, and Rea. Soon Laverty was second fastest, though Camier’s hopes of a quick time in the wet were dashed by a massive highside. He landed on his shoulder, ruining the bike but was seemingly ok.

Corser still led just under the halfway point of the fourteen minute session, followed by Guintoli, Biaggi, Laverty, and Smrz as the fastest five. Badovini, Xaus, Waters, and the crashed Camier were in the knockout zone. Riders began heading back to the garage for final tweaks with five minutes left in the session, though Camier was on his way out to set a time on his backup bike.

Soon Biaggi was on the top of the timesheets, though the point is more not to be at the bottom in S1. He was followed by Guintoli, Laverty, and Corser, with Melandri, Haga, Checa, Rea, Haslam, Xaus, and Sykes the top twelve. Laverty was soon second fastest, with Badovini, Fabrizio, Waters, and Camier in the relegation zone. Camier’s first fast lap moved him up only to fourteenth, though he ended S1 twelfth. In the end, Biaggi (2:00.814) led Guintoli, Laverty, Melandri, and Haga as the five fastest riders with both Castrol Honda riders knocked out. Knocked Out in Superpole 1: 13. Jonathan Rea, 14. Ruben Xaus, 15. Michel Fabrizio, 16. Joshua Waters.

Superpole 2:
The twelve minutes of Superpole 2 got underway with an early fast time from Corser (2:00.907), followed by Haslam, Biaggi, Guintoli, and Badovini. The Australian soon bettered his time, with Smrz, Biaggi, Badovini, and Haslam the top five with just over five minutes left. At that point, Melandri, Laverty, Camier, and Sykes were in the knockout zone. Smrz quickly took the lead, while Melandri improved to eighth, dropping Checa into the relegation zone.

That would not last long, as Checa improved to sixth fastest. His position was fluid, with both factory Yamahas gaining momentum to put the championship leader on the bubble with three minutes left. At the top, Smrz continued to lead over Badovini, Biaggi, Haga, and Corser. Quickly Corser moved up to second fastest, only to be supplanted by Guintoli, then Badovini. At that point, only Smrz and Badovini had lap times under two minutes in the damp conditions. With just one minute remaining, Checa, Sykes, Haslam, and Camier were in the knockout zone after Haslam ran off the track. He rejoined quickly. When Superpole 2 ended, Smrz (1:59.238) led Checa, Laverty, Biaggi, Guintoli, Corser, Badovini, and Melandri as the riders moving on to fight for pole. Knocked Out in Superpole 2: 9. Noriyuki Haga, 10. Tom Sykes, 11. Leon Camier, 12. Leon Haslam.

Superpole 3:
Smrz took the early lead in the ten minutes of Superpole 3, only to be supplanted by Checa. With just four minutes left, Laverty was third fastest and Corser completed the front row while Melandri had yet to set a time. Quickly thereafter, Corser bettered his own time, only to lose pole to Guintoli. Smrz was then second fastest and followed by Laverty and Biaggi. However, Checa was not to be denied yet another pole and posted the quickest lap time of 1:58.890 with two minutes remaining.

At that point, Guintoli, Smrz, Laverty, Biaggi, Corser, Melandri, and Badovini completed the first two rows of starters for Monday’s races. Smrz fought back, taking a half second off Checa’s time as the track continued to dry out. As the seconds ticked down in the session, Checa improved his time, but was still unable to catch Smrz’s very fast time. While attempting to move up from a slow seventh fastest, Biaggi ran off the track. He then tipped the bike over in the wet and muddy grass to end his session. On his final lap, Checa beat out Smrz to the pole by hundredths of a second.

Superpole Results from World Superbike at Miller Motorsports Park, United States:

Pos. No. Rider Team Time Diff.
1. 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati 1:58.315
2. 96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 1:58.390 0.075
3. 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team 1:58.609 0.294
4. 58 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team 1:58.860 0.545
5. 50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 1:59.069 0.754
6. 11 Troy Corser BMW Motorrad 1:59.262 0.947
7. 1 Max Biaggi Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 1:59.736 1.421
8. 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 1:59.827 1.512
Out After Superpole 2
9. 41 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia 2:00.303 1.065
10. 66 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 2:00.477 1.239
11. 2 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad 2:01.643 1.405
12. 91 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 2:01.127 1.889
Out After Superpole 1
13. 4 Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda 2:03.232 2.418
14. 111 Ruben Xaus Castrol Honda 2:03.382 2.568
15. 84 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 2:03.397 2.583
16. 12 Joshua Waters Yoshimura Suzuki 2:04.156 3.342
Not qualified for Superpole
17. 17 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 1:50.195 1.935
18. 52 James Toseland BMW Motorrad Italia 1:50. 306 2.046
19. 8 Mark Aitchison Team Pedercini Kawasaki 1:50.646 2.386
20. 121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 1:50.717 2.457
21. 44 Roberto Rolfo Team Pedercini Kawasaki 1:51.586 3.326

Source: WSBK; Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved