WSBK: Sunshine and Early Knockouts Bring Drama to Superpole at Silverstone

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

John Hopkins (2:04.041) provided a stunning show to win pole as a wild card for the 2011 World Superbike round at Silverstone. He set a new fast lap at the circuit, a particular feat when classed against current British Superbike teammate and fellow wild card John Kirkham, who qualified last. Eugene Laverty, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa will be joining the American rider on the front row on Sunday. Reigning champion Max Biaggi had an early crash but managed to make it through to Superpole 2, where his day ended with an eleventh-place qualifying run.

Hopkins has been having a good weekend, as the first man to go fastest (2:06.667) in the first practice session Friday. He led Camier, Smrz, a recovering Toseland at his home round, and Checa as the fastest five. Hopkins did not fare quite so well in the second session, finishing the first qualifying practice fifth fastest on his British Superbike Cresent Suzuki. His teammate Kirkham was eighteenth and twenty-second fastest in the Friday sessions. Checa (2:05.477) was back on top to take the provisional pole Friday afternoon, leading fellow Ducati rider Berger, Sykes, Camier, and the aforementioned Hopkins as the top five.

They were joined by replacement riders at Castrol Honda Alex Lowes, in for Jonathan Rea, and Fabrizio Lai in for Ruben Xaus. Originally Karl Muggeridge was to replace the Spaniard, but the Australian injured his right wrist in a mountain biking accident in Italy and was forced to withdraw. Badovini had an explosive crash in the morning session, destorying his BMW but was unhurt and finished the first QP just under three tenths slower than teammate Toseland.

Hopkins (2:05.058) was again on top in the final qualifying practice on Saturday, leading Checa by four hundredths. Guintoli and Berger completed an interesting provisional front row while Biaggi languished down in fifteenth. The bad luck continued for Castrol Honda, as Lowes had an off and was unable to haul himself out of the knockout zone, nor was Lai. In the final practice, Checa was again on top, with Laverty, Camier, Badovini, and Haslam the top five. Sykes suffered a concussion and sprained ankle in an off during that practice, and he would not participate in Superpole. Knocked Out in Qualifying Practice: 17. Troy Corser, 18. Alex Lowes, 19. Joan Lascorz, 20. Roberto Rolfo, 21. Fabrizio Lai, 22. John Kirkham.

Superpole 1:
The sun was shining and the weather warm as the first Superpole session got underway. There was a mad dash to get on track, with Biaggi suffering an early crash over some of the bumps on the circuit. He was unhurt and frantically attempted to get the bike running again. Badovini crashed soon thereafter, but it was Haslam, Melandri, Hopkins, Aitchison, and Checa as the top five with eight minutes to go. Meanwhile, Camier, and the two crashers were in the relegation zone at that point. Two minutes later, Laverty had taken over at the top, with Berger, Toseland, Biaggi, and Badovini in the knockout zone.

Biaggi was back on form with four to go, jumping up to fourth fastest and dropping Smrz out. Checa, meanwhile was down in tenth when just two minutes remained. Laverty, Haslam, Melandri, and Biaggi were then the provisional front row while Hopkins was fifth fastest. Berger, Fabrizio, Smrz, and Toseland were those who had to work to move on to S2. The session ended with a fast lap from Fabrizio moving him to second and out of the drop zone. Laverty (2:04.919) was fastest as Fabrizio, Checa, and Haslam joined him on the provisional front row. Haga, Melandri, Biaggi, Hopkins, Aitchison, and Camier completed the top ten. Knocked Out in Superpole 1: 13. Jakub Smrz, 14. James Toseland, 15. Maxime Berger, 16. Tom Sykes.

Superpole 2:
Haga (2:40.627) was the early leader with the fastest lap of the weekend in the second Superpole session, over Guintoli, Hopkins, Fabrizio, Melandri, Haslam, Biaggi, and Badovini as the first times came in. It wouldn’t last, however, as Checa reassserted his dominance over qualifying with a lap nearly two tenths faster. Camier and Laverty also bested Haga’s time on their first fast laps, leaving Haslam, Biaggi, Badovini, and Aitchison in the knockout zone with four minutes to go.

The slowest seven were back out soon thereafter, as were Haga and Guintoli in fourth and fifth, all looking to better their previous times. Biaggi was in danger of being knocked out of the fight for pole, only tenth fastest with the checkered flag waving, and he was unable to improve. In fact, he dropped to eleven as Badovini improved. The session ended with Checa (2:04.472), Camier, Laverty, and Hopkins the provisional front row. Knocked Out in Superpole 2: 9. Leon Haslam, 10. Ayrton Badovini, 11. Max Biaggi, 12. Mark Aitchison.

Superpole 3:
Haga had a big slide early in the final run to pole, and though he was unhurt the bike disintegrated across the tarmac. Guuintoli had the first timed lap with five minutes remaining, but was soon bested by Hopkins (2:04.041), Laverty, Camier, and Checa. They were the top four with three and a half minutes remaining. At that point, Hopkins had barely less than three hundredths of a margin over Laverty in the fastest lap at Silverstone. Both Hopkins and Laverty were in the garage with two to go, as each had more than two tenths over Camier’s time. The American came back out with twenty seconds remaining as the rest of the riders retired from the field, leaving him to his wild-card pole position.

Superpole Results from World Superbike at Silverstone, England:

Pos. No. Rider Team Time Diff.
1. 211 John Hopkins Samsung Crescent Suzuki 2:04.041
2. 58 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team 2:04.068 0.027
3. 2 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 2:04.303 0.262
4. 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati 2:04.362 0.321
5. 50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 2:05.456 1.415
6. 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team 2:05.639 1.598
7. 84 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 2:05.997 1.956
8. 41 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia no time no time
Out After Superpole 2
9. 91 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad 2:05.091 0.619
10. 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 2:05.115 0.643
11. 1 Max Biaggi Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 2:05.184 0.712
12. 8 Mark Aitchison Team Pedericini Kawasaki 2:06.238 1.766
Out After Superpole 1
13. 96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 2:05.400 0.481
14. 52 James Toseland BMW Motorrad Italia 2:05.403 0.484
15. 121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 2:05.709 0.790
16. 66 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki no time no time
Not qualified for Superpole
17. 11 Tory Corser BMW Motorrad 2:06.304 1.246
18. 22 Alex Lowes Castrol Honda 2:06.524 1.466
19. 17 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Racing Kawasaki 2:06.787 1.729
20. 44 Roberto Rolfo Team Pedericini Kawasaki 2:06.895 1.837
21. 32 Fabrizio Lai Castrol Honda 2:07.482 2.424
22. 10 John Kirkham Samsung Crescent Suzuki 2:07.889 2.831

Source: WSBK; Photo: Pirelli (Facebook)