Checa on Pole at Phillip Island WSBK
Carlos Checa is on pole position for the 2011 WSBK opener at Phillip Island.
Checa and Ducati on Top at the Island
Carlos Checa has set the best ever world Superbike lap at Phillip Island en route to qualifying on pole position for tomorrow’s season-opening round of the Yamaha Australia Superbike World Championship.
Checa blasted his Ducati 1198R around the 4.445km circuit in a best lap of 1min30.882secs in this afternoon’s Superpole session, which determined the final grid positions for tomorrow’s two 22-lap races. The previous best lap around Phillip Island was 1min31.050secs, set by Frenchman Regis Laconi two years ago.
“Again I just tried to do my best in Superpole, and I was fortunate that I came out on top,” said Checa. “But now we turn out attention to tomorrow, and I’m under no illusions it’s going to be tough – whether a large or small group is battling at the front. “The races are going to be about tyre management, because a lot of riders are suffering out there.”
While Checa settled back into his normal red-hot routine, Australian star Troy Corser (BMW) was a big improver in Superpole, and will start the races from grid position No. 7. It was a quantum leap forward for Corser, who only completed regulation qualifying in a lowly 15th position.
“We struggled at the start of the weekend with setup but since then we have all worked really hard to make clear steps forward,” said Corser. “Leon and I were having the same issues, but collectively we found a solution and we both showed clear signs of improvement. “In the last session I didn’t have a new qualifying tyre to go out on, so I had to settle for a used one, but I cannot complain. “Our race pace looks pretty good on paper, but a lot depends on the temperature around here. On the whole I think we can all look forward to tomorrow.”
Checa will be joined on the front row of the grid by reigning world champion Max Biaggi, who pushed the Spaniard all the way on his factory Aprilia, finishing just 0.003 seconds adrift. Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) and Briton Leon Haslam (BMW) complete the front row. Guintoli is relishing an off-season switch in brands, which saw him move from the four-cylinder Suzuki to the twin-cylinder Ducati.
“I love the Ducati around Phillip Island – it’s just so much fun,” said the UK-based Guintoli. “The twin-cylinder bike gains a lot more traction around Phillip Island, but we lose a little bit in top speed. But that’s what makes this championship so exciting – the different bikes on the grid.”
Corser will start from the second row, flanked by Czech rider Jakub Smrz (Ducati) in sixth and MotoGP convert Marco Melandri (Yamaha) in eighth. Corser has won the most WSBK races at Phillip Island with seven, and other riders to have claimed the chequered flag at the Victorian circuit include Checa, Haslam, Noriyuki Haga and James Toseland.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland rookie Eugene Laverty will start from grid position six on his Yamaha. Row three will be occupied by Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki), Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) Mildura’s Josh Waters (Suzuki) and the hapless Jonathan Rea (Honda) who crashed out in the second phase of Superpole – after a huge spill during testing earlier this week.
Superpole was a frustrating one for Sykes, who was a brilliant third overall in regulation qualifying on the all-new ZX-10R – the only new machine in this year’s world Superbike field. Waters was pleased with his Superpole effort, providing yet more evidence that he’s a star on the rise.
“Here am I on the third row of the grid and I have Rea next to me and Fabrizio on the other side,” said Waters. “I have never been on a real Superbike, in a sense that our Aussie bikes aren’t at the same level of modification as the internationals. And I’m really enjoying it. “I am so excited – hopefully I’ll be able to able to go to sleep tonight!”
Perth’s Bryan Staring and Central Coast’s Mark Aitchison didn’t take part in Superpole, which is restricted to the first 16 riders in regulation qualifying. They will start tomorrow’s races from 18th and 22nd respectively on their Kawasakis. Nine of tomorrow’s 22-rider field are world Superbike winners.
In world Supersport, a late spurt by Newcastle’s Broc Parkes (Kawasaki) saw him squeeze onto the front row of the grid, where he will line up alongside polesitter Fabien Foret (Honda), Sam Lowes (Honda) and his Spanish team-mate David Salom.
The single 21-lap world Supersport race will be held at 1:30pm tomorrow, sandwiched between the two world Superbike races at 12:00pm and 3:30pm.
FINAL QUALIFYING FOR RD 1 WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Carlos Checa 1’31.150 Althea Racing
2. Max Biaggi 1’31.352 Alitalia Racing Team
3. Sylvain Guintoli 1’31.592 Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing
4. Leon Haslam 1’31.616 BMW Motorrad Motorsport
5. Eugene Lavert 1’31.813 Yamaha World Superbike Team
6. Jakub Smrz 1’31.899 Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing
7. Troy Corser 1’32.005 BMW Motorrad Motorsport
8. Marco Melandri 1’32.035 Yamaha World Superbike Team
9. Michel Fabrizio 1’32.153 Team Suzuki Alstare
10. Tom Sykes 1’32.204 Kawasaki Racing Team Superbike
11. Joshua Waters 1’32.240 Yoshimura Suzuki Racing Team
12. Jonathan Rea 1’32.708 Castrol Honda
13. Joan Lascorz 1’32.346 Kawasaki Racing Team
14. Noriyuki Haga 1’32.391 PATA Racing Team Aprilia
15. James Toseland 1’32.547 BMW Motorrad Italia SBK Team
16. Ruben Xaus 1’32.788 Castrol Honda
17. Leon Camier 1’32.847 Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team
18. Bryan Staring 1’32.883 Pedercini
19. Maxime Berger 1’33.079 Supersonic Racing Team
20. Ayrton Badovini 1’33.161 Motorrad Italia SBK Team
21. Roberto Rolfo 1’33.286 Pedercini
22. Mark Aitchison 1’33.413 Pedercini