News 26 Feb 2010

WSBK: Checa leads the way in action packed first qualifier

Spanish Althea Ducati rider Carlos Checa is on provisional pole position after a bruising opening qualifying session at Phillip Island for the opening round of the 2010 Superbike World Championship, while the Aussie contingent close in on top 10 results.

Checa was fastest in opening qualifying at Phillip Island.

Checa was fastest in opening qualifying at Phillip Island.

Spniard Ducati Althea rider Carlos Checa is on provisional pole position after a bruising opening qualifying session at Phillip Island for the opening round of the 2010 Yamaha Superbike World Championship.

The veteran guided his Ducati to the top with a best lap of 1:32.155, although the outing wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Spaniard when he went down as the track temperature reached a massive 51 degrees.

Checa’s crash was relatively harmless, but the main pyrotechnics came from British duo James Toseland (Yamaha) and Shane Byrne (Ducati), who were both savagely highsided from their machines in the same spot at Turn 11. Toseland has a bruised left wrist after his ordeal, but he and Byrne will both be back in action for final qualifying tomorrow.

But today belonged to a resurgent Checa, with the former 500cc GP winner continuing to show strong form on the privateer Althea Ducati after parting ways with the factory Honda equip of 2009.

“I’m satisfied with my effort today,” said Checa. “We have to remember the race will probably produce different weather conditions, but this a very good starting point.

“I would like to thank my team for all its efforts, and I hope “Shakey’ (Byrne) will be fine tomorrow to fight for a good result in qualifying and Superpole.”

Other leading lights to crash in the 60-minute session included Australian star Troy Corser (BMW) and Italy’s Max Biaggi (Aprilia).

Biaggi’s countryman Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) was the second fastest, vaulting up nine spots from this morning’s opening practice session, with the top five completed by the ultra-consistent Leon Haslam (Suzuki), Byrne and reigning world number two Noriyuki Haga (Ducati).

Less than one-second separated the top 10 riders, with Australian Chris Vermeulen (Kawasaki) just outside that window in 12th spot, ahead of his three countrymen – Corser in 16th, Andrew Pitt (BMW) in 17th and Josh Brookes (Honda) in 22nd.

The top 16 riders after tomorrow’s second qualifying session will contest the three-stage Superpole shootout to determine final grid positions for Sunday’s two 22-lap races.

Vermeulen continues to show gradual improvement in every outing on the factory Kawasaki, with his main focus still on fine-tuning his suspension and chassis settings.

“We made some small changes to the bike today and it made a difference,” said Vermeulen. “Today was actually quite difficult to ride, with some wind and the track temperature getting up, which made things a little slippery.

“The edges of the tyres get pretty greasy in those situations, so it’s easy just to push a little bit too hard and go down the road, as we’ve seen today with the number of crashes. Although these things have traction control, they can still throw you down the road.

“But as far as we’re concerned, the bike is becoming more consistent and we’re aiming to improve again tomorrow – but I hope the conditions are a little cooler.”

While Vermeulen’s stocks continue to improve, Corser, a seven-time winner at Phillip Island, is still struggling to find consistent grip on his powerful factory BMW.

“We had some problems with the grip and with the position of the bike in the first session,” said Corser. “We basically changed the settings of the rear shock and the front fork. We also changed the clutch to something we used last year.

“My confidence was better immediately. Still, we lacked grip at the beginning of the second session. Again, we changed the shock setting. The bike then felt easier to control and the grip was better. At the end of qualifying we fitted new race tyres to the bike. I had more grip immediately. I just arrived a little too fast in Turn 10 and lost both front and rear at the same time.”

In World Supersport, Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) completed the opening day on top, and then it was only 0.310secs back to Michele Pirro (Honda) in fifth position. The logjam also included Eugene Laverty (Honda) in second, ahead of Kenan Sofuoglu (Honda) and Katsuaki Fujiwara (Kawasaki).


Michel Fabrizio: “We tried different tyre solutions this morning and various setting solutions in agreement with my engineer. I had a fall, losing the front, but without causing myself, or my bike, too much damage fortunately. Then in the qualifying session we found a good direction with the tyre solution that may well be the one to choose for the race; the results were quite encouraging. During my fast lap I lost a couple of tenths through the last corner but I’m happy; we’ve worked well and I’m satisfied with the results. We have a good race pace but a lot will depend on Sunday’s weather.”

Noriyuki Haga: “We’ve tested the different rear tyres that Pirelli make available to us this weekend but we are still undecided as to which will have the best durability in these hot conditions. Tomorrow we’ll try a different solution for the setting but overall I’m happy. The lap times have been consistent but today was very hot and although I felt I could have pushed a little more, I didn’t want to risk it, also because I saw that several riders crashed.”

Leon Haslam: “I am really happy with today because we are well on the way to finding a good set-up for the race on Sunday. We tried all three different tyres and now we have good ideas about which one we will use depending on the conditions. I didn’t even use a soft tyre this afternoon and my fastest lap was done on ordinary race rubber. The differing temperatures have given us different challenges, but I’m pretty confident about the bike’s set-up, unless of course it rains and then we’ll all be in trouble. The track felt a bit slippery and greasy today, because of the hotter temperatures, and the wind was a bit of a problem in turns 1 and 2 and sector 4, but it was the same for everybody and we just had to cope with it. No problems really today, except that I heard from home this morning that my 19 year-old dog had died. He’s had a good, long life, but he will be missed.”

Carlos Checa :”I’m really satisfied with today’s test. I worked very well with my technicians and we tested some different tires and settings. It’s always a good result for our team to reach the provisional pole position. Nevertheless, we have to remember that the race will be on Sunday and that probably we’ll have different weather conditions with colder temperature, but this a very good starting point. I would like to thank all the people in my team, and particularly the general manager Genesio Bevilacqua who was able to create such a competitive team. I hope Shakey will be all right tomorrow to fight for a good result during tomorrow’s qualifications and Superpole.”

Shane Byrne :”I had a big high side during my last fast lap while trying to improve my best lap time. I landed straight on my back and at the moment I’m experiencing a lot of pain. Hopefully tonight I’ll be able to rest and feel better tomorrow. I’m disappointed because the feeling with the bike was very good and without crashing I probably could have bettered my position. Now it’s important that I rest in order to be ready for tomorrow qualifying session and Superpole.”

Sylvain Guintoli: “We’ve made a good step forward today – maybe part of it was down to me using my right hand better – and I am really loving riding the bike. We tried many different settings and also did a lot of work on trying to improve the tyre life and, like Leon, I did my best lap on normal race rubber. At the moment, I am struggling a bit finding problems with the bike and everything is going very well. That’s also down to the hard work put in by the whole team and we are feeling good about our prospects on Sunday. First aim tomorrow morning is getting into Superpole. After that, we’ll see what happens.”

Cal Crutchlow: “I think we’ve worked hard and got rid of the chatter problem. The 2009 parts that we’ve used seem to have helped us in that way. The tank and the seat unit seemed to have stopped the chatter now. If you look at our times, although we’re not initially fastest straight away we’ve got consistency across the sessions. We’ve got some more areas to work on and I’m looking forward to making the bike even better tomorrow. We’ve got a good direction to work in, it was just a little unfortunate that the track temperature was so hot today. Even so we were still doing the same times as Ben’s race pace from last year. Hopefully it will cool off over the next couple of days and work better for us.”

James Toseland: “Unfortunately had a big crash today coming out of the penultimate corner which didn’t help things. I did go back out on the other bike but had a pain in my hand so came in as I wanted to make sure it was ok. We’re definitely making improvements, we’ve just had a lot to do in one day to work through the package. We’re only a bit over a second off pole now so we’ll focus down and keep moving forward tomorrow.”

Click here for detailed results