WSBK Rider Report
There was no doubt that Carlos Checa felt very much at ease on his "home" track of Valencia this afternoon and to demonstrate this he recorded the fastest time in the first qualifying session of this, the third round of the World Superbike Championship.
The Spaniard, clocking up 25 laps, was recording times quicker than the SBK lap record set by Haga (Ducati) last year and he seems to have the potential to improve further.
Friday World Superbike Qualifying: 1 Checa (ESP-Ducati) 1:34.220, 2 Smrz (CZE-Ducati) 1:34.502, 3 Byrne (GBR-Ducati) 1:34.690, 4 Biaggi (ITA-Aprilia) 1:34.771, 5 Leon Haslam (GBR-Suzuki Alstare) 1:34.780, 6 Fabrizio (ITA-Ducati) 1:34.886. 11 Sylvain Guintoli (FRA-Suzuki Alstare) 1:35.189.
Carlos Checa says: "I’m fairly happy with the rear", declared Carlos at the end of the session, visibly satisfied, "while I need to improve the feeling I have with the front. The Ducati has however proved itself to be very fast on this track and I will try my best to take advantage of this potential".
Michel Fabrizio says: "I still have a problem with the front of the bike, and this was what caused me to fall this afternoon. Having said that, the feeling I have with the bike was better now that it was in the free practice earlier. There’s still more to do and my team will work to find a good solution for me this evening so that we can try to improve tomorrow. I’m not totally at ease but I was able to make a few fast laps, especially on used tyres. I hope we can improve further tomorrow."
Noriyuki Haga says: "We started today with the setting that we had worked with during the last tests here, also using the tyre that worked best for us during those January sessions and, although the track conditions were not great today, I think that tyre will last the race distance. This afternoon I also did an endurance run of fourteen laps with the same tyre and it held up well. We need to make a few more modifications to refine the set-up of my 1198 but I’m confident we can perform better tomorrow."
Leon Haslam says: "We’ve got some work to do to make me happy, but it’s just the usual stuff really, so nobody is getting worried at this stage. Really only Carlos (Checa) has been consistently -aster than me today and the ones who finished ahead of me in qualifying did their times as one-offs, so I am not too concerned. Everything has been progressing well today and we didn’t have any major problems. This is a fairly unique track and there are quite a few slippery bits that you have to be aware about. The nature of it favors twins, as you can see by the standings today. But I’m confident that the fine tweaks we will make tomorrow will improve the bike and let me lap more quickly."
Sylvain Guintoli says: "This track is very different to other tracks in that it is fairly flat and there are lots of corners and no big straights. For this track we changed the bike’s geometry quite a bit and improved the feel of the bike in the afternoon. Then it felt more comfortable and I am sure that the work we will do tomorrow will be another improvement. I hope that’s the case, because I don’t want to be in a situation where we have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to find a good set-up. This series is so competitive, that just two-tenths-of-second can lose you two rows of the grid, so I have to qualify as high up as possible to have any chance of a podium.
Cal Crutchlow says: "Today wasn’t easy. We made good progress up to Portimao, unfortunately we are now at a track with much less grip which makes it again more difficult for us. Hopefully we can make improvements over the evening and into tomorrow. I look forward to getting started again in the morning and seeing how it goes."
James Toseland says: "A frustrating session for me today. I’d just put the softer tyre in at the end of the session, I came out of turn one really well but unfortunately I got my finger stuck under the brake lever and couldn’t stop in time. I only just got the bike stopped right up by the barrier and then tipped it over. Luckily no damage to me or the bike so I got back on but by the time I’d cleaned all the dirt off them the performance of them had just dropped slightly. I was three tenths quicker than this morning and the time was there to be had but I ran out of time, frustrating as it was my error. We’ve got a lot of information from today so I’m looking forward to tomorrow."
Troy Corser says: "The new traction control software is a step in the right direction, and the traction of the bike feels a lot better. We only struggled a bit on braking, more than anything on engine braking. Because of this I cannot ride the bike normally on the exit of the corners. We made some small changes on the traction control in the afternoon, but I think we went in the wrong direction. I know I can do good lap times when we get the bike stopping properly. At the end of Qualifying Practice we put new tyres on the bike, but in turn 2 the bike jumped into Neutral and I lost the front."
Ruben Xaus says: "I am not where I want to be. In the Free Practice session I was not really happy. We changed a couple of things for the Qualifying Practice session and improved. However, I had some chattering. When I came into the garage to discuss the issue with my crew time was running out to change very much."
Jonathan Rea says: "We’ve had some issues today and a few things have gone wrong and conspired against us. However, we can see that all the problems with the bike point to the same sort of area, which is the overall balance, and we need to put some more weight on the front to help with the steering. Of course, I’m disappointed to be where I am and we’ve got to find some time to close the gap to the guys at the front. It’s not going to be easy, but we’ll work through it and come back tomorrow morning with a fresh approach."
Max Neukirchner says: "OK, so I’m back in 16th, but at least the problems we had today are not as bad as they were at Portimao. I had some chatter problems this afternoon and it’s difficult to hold a line and speed going into and through the corners. The exit is OK though, and we’re following a certain direction that is improving things – they are just not improving fast enough at the moment."