The second of thirteen World Superbike rounds (and the first European appointment) got underway this afternoon at the Autódromo Internacional de Algarve, and Ducati Xerox’s Michel Fabrizio immediately made his mark, when he concluded the first qualifying session of the weekend in second position, sandwiched between Suzuki’s Haslam and Checa on Althea Racing’s privateer Ducati 1198.
Conditions at the Portuguese track were, as expected, significantly better than those faced here by the team during January’s testing sessions and with an air temperature of around 22°C, both Ducati Xerox WSBK riders Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio were able to get straight to work in the early afternoon’s first free practice session.
Neither rider experienced problems and by the end of the 60-minute practice Michel was in eighth position and Noriyuki in eleventh, with many of the top ten riders having projected themselves to the top half of the timesheets by making a single flying lap in the final minutes of the session.
Later in the afternoon, and in similar conditions, the Superbikes were back on track for first qualifying and again positive progress was made by the Ducati Xerox squad. Michel improved his lap times throughout the session before making his fastest lap in the closing minutes, concluding today with a provisional place on the front row of the grid.
Noriyuki meanwhile worked with his technicians to refine the set-up of his Ducati 1198 SBK, and he also completed a mini long-run of eleven laps in which durability of the chosen tyre solution was confirmed as being fairly good.
Michel Fabrizio 1m43.5s
"So today it’s Haslam, me and Checa at the top but the Yamahas of Toseland and Crutchlow seem very strong too, as I’ve said before we have a long season ahead of us! Anyway, I’m fairly happy and haven’t had any real problems today even though I only really made that one fast lap right at the end. We need to continue with the work tomorrow, the important thing is to find good race pace but I’m confident and after today we’re feeling positive I would say."
Noriyuki Haga 1m44.0s
"We’ve got a lot done today and have found a good rear tyre solution, though tomorrow we’ll try a different front tyre and suspension setting. I think if we find better front feeling, that should provide me with better turning, which was the thing that was lacking today; a few of the tighter corners were giving me problems. I also tried a mini long-run and the tyre didn’t seem bad but I need to improve the lap-times, so we’ll be working towards that tomorrow."
Superbike Practice Times
1. Haslam (Suzuki)1m43.4s; 2. Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) 1m43.5s 3. Checa (Ducati) 1m43.6s; 4. Biaggi (Aprilia) 1m43.6s; 5. Toseland (Yamaha) 1m43.7s; 6. Crutchlow(Yamaha) 1m43.7s; 7. Byrne (Ducati) 1m43.8s; 8. Smrz (Ducati) 1m43.9s…. 11. Haga (Ducati Xerox) 1m44.0s