WSBK: Fresh Tires Aid Checa to Superpole at Assen

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Having dominated the final qualifying session under a cloudy sky and in cool temperatures, Carlos Checa won pole (1:35.292) for the World Superbike round at Assen. The Spaniard won pole for the third race weekend in a row, added by the fact that he was the only rider to have a fresh qualifying tire for the third Superpole session. He will be joined on the front row for Sunday’s races by Jakub Smrz, Eugene Laverty, and Noriyuki Haga. Though none could touch Checa at the end, the Superpole sessions were marked by very close lap times, with the twelve riders in Superpole 2 covered by a half second. Only Marco Melandri crashed during the Superpole sessions, on his last lap while attempting to fight for pole. He was unhurt and qualified eighth.

Though only second quickest in qualifying, Smrz was quickest in both the Friday free practice and the qualifying practice later that afternoon, with eight other men completing the fastest five between both sessions. Though the Czech rider came out on top, the final ten minutes in the first qualifying session seemed to say that the pole position was any rider’s to win. Vermeulen, still recovering and continuously testing Kawasakis, suffered a blown engine in each Friday session that kept him well down the order and off the bike.

Meanwhile, an also injured James Toseland had been replaced by Dutch rider Barry Veneman, who posted times respectably close to those of teammate Badovini. Saturday morning, Rea was quickest in the final qualifying practice, taking the top spot from Smrz by two tenths. He was followed by Biaggi, Corser, and Haga as the fastest five. Corser took over the top spot for the final free practice, with the fastest time of the weekend (1:35.818). Knocked Out in Qualifying Practice: 17. Maxime Berger, 18. Chris Vermeulen, 19. Barry Veneman, 20. Roberto Rolfo, 21. Mark Aitchison.

Superpole 1:
Superpole 1 began under an overcast sky, with the cooler temperatures that had marked much of the weekend, and a breeze. Most of the riders were straight onto the track for this first, fourteen minute session. Haga (1:35.667) led with ten minutes remaining, followed by Haslam, Biaggi, Fabrizio, and Corser. At that point, Laverty, Badovini, Xaus, and Camier were in the knockout zone. Most riders were back in the garage at the halfway point, and back out with around five minutes remaining.

With the point simply to move onward to Superpole 2, Laverty, Guintoli, Badovini, and Xaus were in danger of staying behind with four minutes to go. Rea was twelfth fastest and in danger while Haga remained on top. With just a minute left, Laverty took the provisional pole from Haga, closely followed by teammate Melandri. After the flag, the Irish rider would remain fastest (1:35.623), with Melandri, Haga, Corser, and Biaggi the fastest five. Weekend leader Smrz barely made the cut, and ended S1 twelfth fastest. Knocked Out in Superpole 1: 13. Michel Fabrizio, 14. Ruben Xaus, 15. Sylvain Guintoli, 16. Ayrton Badovini.

Superpole 2:
Haslam and Lascorz were the first out for the twelve minutes of Superpole 2. Lascorz was the early leader, followed by Camier, Haga, Haslam, and Biaggi in the first wave of lap times. Quickly, Melandri was fastest (1:35.552) while Rea, Smrz, Checa, and Sykes were in the drop zone without times, four minutes into the session. On their first laps, Rea and Checa slotted into provisional pole and second fastest, respectively, though Rea had already used both of his qualifying tires. Checa soon took the lead (1:35.536), while Smrz had yet to set a time and less than five minutes to do so.

A minute later, Haga, Corser, Biaggi, and Smrz were in in the relegation zone, only to have Smrz take the lead with three minutes to go, and dropped Camier into the knockout zone. At that point, all twelve were separated by less than a second. Corser improved his time, but only to ninth. The times tightened as the seconds ticked away, ending the session with Smrz (1:35.523) on top, followed by Checa, Rea, Melandri, and Biaggi.  Knocked Out in Superpole 2: 9. Leon Camier, 10. Troy Corser, 11. Joan Lascorz, 12. Leon Haslam.

Superpole 3:
Laverty was the last to leave the pit lane in the final qualifying session. Most of the eight riders were on similar footing and forced to lap with used qualifying tires. Checa, though, had fresh qualifying rubber. The Spaniard was fastest (1:35.594) early, followed by Haga, Rea, Biaggi, Sykes, and Melandri with five minutes left. At that point, neither Smrz nor Laverty had set a time. Checa soon bettered his own time by three tenths, though the order of the top five remained the same. Smrz started his first fast lap with about three minutes left while Laverty continued to wait in the garage.

However, Laverty went straight to second fastest with his first proper lap, leaving Checa on top, and an improved Smrz third fastest. Smrz improved again on his next lap to take second from Laverty. His teammate Melandri did not fare so well, crashing on his last lap. Though he was unhurt, he was also unable to post a time quicker than eighth fastest. No one could catch Checa as he took his third pole in as many race weekends.

Superpole Results from World Superbike at Assen, Netherlands:

Pos. No. Rider Team Time Diff.
1. 7 Carlos Checa Althea Racing Ducati 1:35.292
2. 96 Jakub Smrz Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 1:35. 560 0.268
3. 58 Eugene Laverty Yamaha WSBK Team 1:35.580 0.288
4. 41 Noriyuki Haga PATA Racing Team Aprilia 1:35.920 0.628
5. 4 Jonathan Rea Castrol Honda 1:36.138 0.846
6. 1 Max Biaggi Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 1:36.302 1.010
7. 66 Tom Sykes Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 1:36.351 1.059
8. 33 Marco Melandri Yamaha WSBK Team 1:37.036 1.744
Out After Superpole 2
9. 2 Leon Camier Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team 1:35.903 0.380
10. 11 Troy Corser BMW Motorrad Motorsport 1:35.954 0.431
11. 17 Joan Lascorz Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 1:35.983 0.460
12. 91 Leon Haslam BMW Motorrad Motorsport 1:36.089 0.566
Out After Superpole 1
13. 84 Michel Fabrizio Team Suzuki Alstare 1:36.148 0.525
14. 111 Ruben Xaus Castrol Honda 1:36.260 0.637
15. 50 Sylvain Guintoli Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati 1:36.361 0.738
16. 86 Ayrton Badovini BMW Motorrad Italia 1:36.920 1.297
Not qualified for Superpole
17. 121 Maxime Berger Supersonic Racing Ducati 1:37.272 1.237
18. 77 Chris Vermeulen Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing 1:37.501 1.466
19. 37 Barry Veneman BMW Motorrad Italia 1:37.569 1.534
20. 44 Roberto Rolofo Team Pedercini Kawasaki 1:37.676 1.641
21. 8 Mark Aitchison Team Pedercini Kawasaki 1:37.794 1.759

Source: WSBK