Portimao (Portugal), Saturday 24th October 2008: championship points leader Noriyuki Haga and his Ducati Xerox squad experienced a difficult day, and a difficult Superpole, at the Portimao circuit today, closing in tenth position, while Michel Fabrizio and his Ducati 1198 had more success, qualifying on the front row, alongside Spies (Yamaha), Byrne (Ducati) and Rea (Honda), for tomorrow’s crucial races.
In second qualifying this morning both Noriyuki and Michel continued to work to improve the rear setting of their Ducati 1198 machines, with both able to improve on yesterday’s qualifying times despite an apparent lack of rear grip. Michel recorded the second fastest time of the session, ducking under the 1m44 barrier several times, to be beaten only by Jonathan Rea (Honda) while Noriyuki concluded the session in fifth place, improving on yesterday’s performance and securing himself safe passage into the afternoon’s Superpole.
Ben Spies Speaks… (1st, 1’42.412)
"Getting the Superpole record is cool, it’s one of those things that one day I’ll look back on and enjoy, however right now I just see it as track position for me. I’ve got no other goals but to gain further help for my race tomorrow. We saw Haga struggle a little bit today but I’m sure Ducati will work it out quickly. We’re just going to put it together tomorrow and see what happens. We’ve not wanted to show our pace until Superpole, then we pinned it and got some good laps in. We’ve got some other things to work on for race day and hopefully we can tie it down some more."
Noriyuki Haga Speaks… (10th, 1’43.300)
"Of course it is a disadvantage to be on the third row of the grid but I’ve won races from that position in the past and I know that anything can happen on race day. The problem is that all day today I’ve had trouble turning and, at the same time, I’m not happy with the level of rear grip. We used the two qualifying tyres in the second Superpole session and they gave me better grip but didn’t help me to move the bike into the corners any more easily. So I’m consistently losing time in the final split and that’s the real problem. We must change something for tomorrow so I’m talking to my engineer and we’ll see tomorrow morning if we’ve found a solution that will enable me to fight for the race and title wins."
Shane Byrne Speaks… (2nd)
"I’m delighted to be back on the front row, it seems like it’s been forever. We actually used both of our qualifying tyres before the last section and then a 42.99 came up on my dash and I was so tired that I closed the throttle on the straight and I had one more lap to go! Hopefully we can have a good weekend here and see what happens for next year."
Michel Fabrizio Speaks… (3rd)
"It was very hot and difficult in qualifying today. For the race I think the bike is OK, but in qualifying it was not so good. My race pace is quite similar to Ben Spies’s but I know he is very fast. Hopefully also Shane can get into the battle. It’s very important for me to do a good race for Ducati tomorrow and for sure I’ll try and give a hand to my team-mate."
"Of course I’m satisfied to be on the front row but it wasn’t easy this afternoon. Ben really got the best out of the qualifying tyre while I found it more difficult to work with; there are also many strong guys out there this weekend. Anyway, I’ll start from third and, bearing in mind that the championship is at stake, I will do everything to get ahead of Ben tomorrow, to help my team-mate Nori in the fight for the title. It will be hard for him, starting from the third row but we will see tomorrow; he is an extremely strong and expert rider. For me it might be difficult to stick with Ben, especially in the first laps, but I feel prepared. There’s also another Ducati on the front row; it’s good to have Shakey here too and I hope that he can be part of tomorrow’s battle for the win."
Jonathan Rea Speaks… (4th)
"Twelve months ago I made my Superbike debut here and I didn’t like the track. I think I must be getting worse because I was third on the grid last year. But we’ve had a good weekend so far and I’ve got a really good feeling with the bike."
Jonathan Rea Speaks…
I’m actually quite happy – it’s a front row start after all, and we’ve been right on the pace all weekend so far. The strange thing is that the bike seems to work better on race tyres than it does on the qualifiers, so I think we’re ready and feeling confident for tomorrow. I had a few problems with other riders on the track and I made a few mistakes of my own, but I’m not going to be too down in the dumps about it. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s two races, which are going to be a proper dog fight, for sure!
Carlos Checa Speaks…
Once again, we seem to have struggled in qualifying. I did the same lap times on the qualifying tyre as I did on the race tyre. Qualifying yesterday and this morning was good and we had the pace for top five. But with the qualifying tyres in the bike, we don’t seem to have enough pace even for the top eight. I’m not so worried though, and I think we can run top five pace again in the races with a good start. The races are long so there will be plenty of overtaking opportunities.
Max Biaggi Speaks…
"During the fall that happened in the warm-ups I damaged the bike that I do the best with," stated Biaggi, "and I had to use the second motorcycle which wasn’t ready. In to qualify, I couldn’t push it to the maximum with the qualifying tyre because I wasn’t very secure, and I don’t know how to explain the reason why Superpole 3 was for everyone. I ended up with some contusions, which hurt a bit and I went to the Mobile clinc. Fortunately nothing is broken and starting this evening I’ll begin a therapy with painkillers so I can participate in the two races tomorrow. Tomorrow we’ll have to work a lot more the warm-ups to be able to make up for the time that was lost with the falls."
Leon Haslam Speaks…
"I am pretty happy and we made some good progress through the weekend. We are lacking a little bit in the high RPM, so we are losing 0.1 or 0.2 seconds per lap, but we have only been 0.1 or 0.2 off the quickest all weekend. In that last Superpole we were frustrated because we ended up going back to the old qualifying tyre. It had dropped off a bit but it was still better than the new one. But I’m still quite happy to be fifth and on the second row."