News 15 May 2010

WSBK: Fabrizio fastest on opening day in South Africa

Ducati Xerox rider Michel Fabrizio returned to form with the fastest lap time on Friday at Kyalami, with Aussie Troy Corser fourth quickest for BMW.

Ducati's Fabrizio was fastest on Friday at Kyalami.

Ducati's Fabrizio was fastest on Friday at Kyalami.

The intensity of competition in World Superbike Racing in 2010 was continued in the first qualifying session at Kyalami in South Africa, with all seven participating manufacturers represented in the top 11 places, all within 0.859 seconds of each other.

Michel Fabrizio led the charge on the opening day at a warm and welcoming Kyalami, pushing his Ducati Xerox factory machine to the best time of 1:38.477 around the 4.246km circuit near Johannesburg.

On race tyres he is already under his own lap record pace from the 2009 season at this round, with one more day of practice and Superpole to go before Sunday’s two races.

A spread of machines ranged out behind Fabrizio, with the Yamaha Sterilgarda R1 of Cal Crutchlow second, Jonathan Rea’s Hannspree Ten Kate Honda third and Troy Corser’s BMW Motorrad Motorsport fourth fastest. Points leader Leon Haslam (Suzuki Alstare) was fifth, with privateer Althea Ducati rider Carlos Checa sixth.

All the top six set lap times under the 1:39 mark. Seventh was the Pata B&G Ducati of Jakub Smrz, with the top eight rounded out by recent Monza race winner, Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia). Privateers Shane Byrne (Althea Ducati) and Luca Scassa (Supersonic Ducati) were the final riders into the top ten places on the opening day.

Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) was 11th fastest, top Kawasaki rider in the 22-strong pack, one place ahead of Biaggi’s team-mate Leon Camier.

Some legendary Superbike names had a tough first day, with Noriyuki Haga only 13th, Ruben Xaus 14th and James Toseland still hurt from his big Monza crash, 15th.

Local wild card rider Sheridan Morais (EmTek Aprilia) was a creditable 16th, only 1.3 seconds from pole at his local track, while the top 18 riders were covered by only 1.547 seconds.

Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda) secured the top spot in the opening qualifying session with a 1:41.363 lap, before a red flag came out to halt proceedings with almost four minutes left to run.

He carried on in the lead after the session had been completed but Matthieu Lagrive (ParkinGO Triumph BE1) used the last minutes to improve to second, just in front of Kenan Sofuoglu (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Kenan’s team-mate Michele Pirro.

Championship leader Joan Lascorz was fifth fastest on his Kawasaki. The best-placed local wildcard was Ronan Quarmby (Bike Fin Safe Sky Honda), eighth.

Click here for detailed results

Michel Fabrizio: “We made a good start today. We started from last year’s set-up but then made a variety of changes to both the front and rear of my bike. I have a good feeling and didn’t have any particular problems today. The only thing we need to work on is tyre wear as I did a mini long-run today with the new tyre that’s available to us but after nine laps the grip was already dropping off.”

Noriyuki Haga: “Today was difficult as I didn’t have enough absorption over this bumpy track surface. I tried the different tyres available and they are not bad but without better absorption it’s hard to push. We need to work to resolve this issue tomorrow. I hope to improve tomorrow but Sunday will be difficult; there are a lot of us on a track that is not so fast.”

Leon Haslam: “I’m pretty happy with what we did today and satisfied with the number of laps I put in. The tyres felt pretty consistent and I was able to go quite quickly on a tyre that was old, so that bodes well for the races. The track is very bumpy and it’s important to get a good bike set-up and one that works with the bumps. We’ve been working on getting a good bike balance and once you have that, it is easier to push hard. After the end of a session my left wrist aches a bit, but there is no problem with it when I am on the bike. Because this circuit is so physical, if I get a slide, I certainly know about it in my wrist, but I don’t see it been a problem in Sunday’s races. I am sure that Superpole is going to be frantic tomorrow. In the past, I haven’t made big improvements on qualifying tyres, but I have always managed good grid positions and last week was the first time this season I have been off the front row. I am more concerned with the balance of the bike and the set-up than grid positions and as long as I am on the first two rows I will be happy.”

Sylvain Guintoli: “It’s my first time here and I spent most of the day learning the track and trying to work out where all the bumps are – and there a lot of them! I like this track; it’s very technical and very demanding and you don’t really get a chance to have a rest anywhere. It’s a shame that there are so many bumps and changes of tarmac because it is such a good track to ride. We started today with the Monza bike set-up and then made changes. But most of the changes made the bike worse and I went slower, so we will have to go back to the Monza set-up and then work from there. My position in the ranking today was rubbish, but I’m actually quite pleased with my lap times and we are not so far away. I just need to put it all together and do well in Superpole.”

Troy Corser: “Today was not so bad and I’m feeling pretty satisfied with the progress we made. I spent the morning session learning where all the bumps were and trying to find a good racing line and miss them! There are definitely more bumps here now then there was when I was here two years ago. In the afternoon we worked more on the set-up of the bike, traction control and clutch and I put in quite a lot of laps. The lap times were pretty consistent, even on an old tyre, and I felt pretty comfortable. At the end, I put on a new tyre and went half a second quicker. You are never going to get a perfect bike set-up here, but it’s important to know the track and anticipate where the bumps are. The racing line is actually quite narrow and if you have to go wide to pass somebody that’s when you can run into a problem.
For me, the track is not clean enough and there is a also a particular problem going towards turn one. What looks like a red and white ripple strip is actually a rubber conveyor belt that has been painted red and white. And because it is not asphalt, it moves around a bit when you go across it. I went up to the FIM safety guy and spoke to him about it and about the track not being clean and he told me that he thought the track was clean enough and that he didn’t care what I thought! I wasn’t the only rider to talk to him about these two matters, but he didn’t seem to care what we thought. The least he should have done was to make another inspection (with a couple of riders), instead of just ignoring us. All we were asking was to be treated professionally – nothing more.”

Cal Crutchlow: “I think today went ok, I’m pretty pleased to be honest. I should have been fastest but I got held up on my last hot lap. I think it’s going to be difficult in race conditions; tyre wear is a big issue as the track is very abrasive. Overall second fastest isn’t too bad on the first day, we’ll go away now and will look at more improvements for tomorrow with the team.”

James Toseland: “It’s my first day back on the bike since my crash last week and it’s also my first time back on this track for ten years, it’s very technical and I’d forgotten how bumpy it is. Unfortunately the base setting we started the session with wasn’t right so we had a lot of work to do to get the bike working well. At the end we found something that worked better and got down to good race times, so tomorrow we’ll improve on that some more and we will get down to the faster times they’re running at the front today. Given everything I’m only just over a second off after the first day so I’m not displeased with that and we’ve got a lot more to give tomorrow.”

Jonathan Rea: “We did a lot of wo rk on old tyres today to set the bike up for the bumps and its demands for grip. We definitely found a good base to start with tomorrow morning and when we put new tyres in at the end all that hard work made sense. So, it’s been a good and satisfying first day here without any major drama. We’ll look a little more at the front of the bike tomorrow and try to get it to deal with the bumps even better, but everything feels pretty good so far.”

Max Neukirchner: “I did a long run this afternoon when the lap times were not so bad. When we put in new tyres to improve the time, the front tyre was too soft and I was not able to push hard enough. We’ll put in a harder one tomorrow morning and hope that improves things. I also need to work on my lines through one or two corners where I am spending too long with the bike leant over and not opening the throttle soon enough. I am still adapting my style and haven’t ridden here since the test 18 months ago. So, although 18th looks quite bad, I am positive about improving the position tomorrow.”