It was the first wet superpole of the 2010 World Superbike season on Saturday at Imola, and it brought slow speeds to every rider. But although not the fairest conditions for traction, Tom Sykes achieved Superpole on his ZX-10R, the first for Kawasaki since 2007.
A comparison of how slow the WSBK track was due to inclement weather is easily shown in the times from Friday's qualifying practice to Superpole 3, where Sykes posted his Superpole time. Sykes time was 2:07.341, and Althea Racing Carlos Checa's Friday practice time was 1:48.178.
Starting from second at Sunday's World SBK race in Imola will be Aprilia RSV4 Factory rider Jakub Smrz, followed by Suzuki Alstare rider Leon Haslam. Starting in fourth and fifth will be Ducati riders L. Scassa and L. Lanzi.
Here's what the riders were saying after Saturday's wet Superpole:
Tom Sykes says: "I'm obviously really happy to have achieved my first ever pole position in World Superbikes today at Imola. We've been making gradual improvements over the past few races and it is full credit to my Team for giving me a package which I had all confidence in, to ride in the tricky conditions."
"We have been pretty consistent since Friday, no matter what the weather, and have managed to find the balance between our set-up from Nurburgring and the successful test we had here a few months back. I have only had to make a few changes here and there but this allows me to put my head down and get stuck in. To start tomorrow's races in P1 is fantastic and I aim to better the results I had in the Nurburgring and continue our good fortunes."
Ian Lowry says: "I'm really happy for Tom and the Team today to have got the pole position, but on my side of the garage I have been really frustrated. I wanted to improve on my time today but the weather conditions have not worked in my favor at all. To come to a new track on a bike which you have had limited time riding, you really need a few sessions to get confident with the track layout and settings but that wasn't to be for me here."
"I will try my best for tomorrow's races and I know that each time I am on the bike I improve so this is my aim. I would be happy for me and the Team to get some points for tomorrow."
Max Biaggi says: "A complicated day but in the end I found that I was quick enough to earn the second row, and probably risking a bit more I could have done even better. These were undoubtedly the wildest test sessions of the season due to the varying weather conditions, so I'd say that we did the right thing today."
"I was sure that I could do much better than yesterday even if, and we have always known this, on this track we have more than our share of difficulties. We still have a lot of work to do and not much time, so we need to try and put together the best possible package we have, although for dry conditions I already have a few things in mind. The wet asphalt is always am unknown factor, but especially here it is absolute torture."
"The two races tomorrow won't be easy for us. In the first laps everybody ahead of us will be very quick and the weather conditions will play an important role, but we're ready to grit our teeth and give 110% to obtain the most. We'll draw up the sums at the end of the two races."
Leon Haslam says: "That was a tough Superpole, but then it's been a pretty tough day. Conditions were very difficult and it would've been the easiest thing in the world to crash - and many did! This was my first proper time on this bike in the wet so I had a lot to learn pretty quickly. When the track was wet, it was mega slippery and it was hard just to keep upright. I was struggling with lack of grip on the entry to the corners, but I think all of us were. I really went for it in Superpole 3 and my quickest lap was definitely a bit on the hairy side."
"But, I got the front row place and that's all that mattered. "I'm happy with the front row and now we'll all have to wait and see what the weather will do tomorrow. For the sake of the championship, I suppose it probably would be better if it was wet tomorrow, but for the fans and good racing it'd be better to be dry. I think I've got a pretty good bike set-up, wet or dry, and will be giving it 110 per cent tomorrow, whatever the conditions."
Sylvain Guintoli says: Today didn't turn out how I wanted and most of that is because of the conditions this afternoon in Superpole. I finished eighth in Superpole 1, but struggled with grip problems, so we made some changes to the bike for Superpole 2, but I still had grip problems and just couldn't push any harder. The track felt very, very slippery in the wet and I think it's going to be a bit of a nightmare if it rains in the races tomorrow. If it does, there will be a lot of crashes for sure and that's not really good for anybody."
"I think my bike's dry set-up is not so bad, but I'm not sure about the set-up if it is wet. We'll look at all the data and then maybe try something in the warm-up tomorrow. I'm going to have to make two really good starts tomorrow if I am to have chance of a good result. Fortunately it's a long drag down to the first turn, so I might be in with a chance."
Carlos Checa says: "Everything changed in these conditions. It was the first time I had ridden this bike in the wet and Superpole wasn't the best moment in which to have to set-up the bike for the conditions, so we went out with a base set-up and tried to make gradual improvement. Unfortunately, in the second phase, I lost control of the bike at a risky point of the track, where others had already fallen and where I should have perhaps paid more attention. Starting from the third row is not that dramatic however, I'll try to make up positions right from the first corners and, if it rains, we'll come up with something."
Shane Bryne says: "After the first phase we made the right decision to change the set-up that was too hard for the conditions. Unfortunately when i went back out I found myself behind Crutchlow: I saw him fall but didn't have time to close the gas or change direction and so i fell there too. I tried to make a fast lap with my first bike but I had a clutch problem, caused by the fall, and so I had to use the second bike. It wasn't set-up in the same way and so I wasn't able to make the top eight. I apologise to the team because they have worked so hard but tomorrow I'll try my best to catch up and make two good races. It will be tough from the fourth row but I'll give it my all."
Max Neukirchner says: "It has not been such a good day. During the second qualifying this morning we couldn't improve the bike or the lap time because of the conditions. In the afternoon the grip level was again much less and there was so much movement on the bike that it was impossible to make the same lap time as yesterday."
"Superpole was wet and it was so slippery out there it was very easy to crash. As soon as I got on the gas the rear would start spinning up so it was really difficult. The first and last parts of the circuit were really wet and there were different levels of grip in each chicane so it was not easy at all. I made a couple of mistakes on my best lap so I think I could have maybe got one or two places higher, but that's how it was today."
Jonathan Rea says: "Today went really well until Superpole. We were making a few changes here and there and then I had a little hiccup with the machine in the second free practice. But I was able to go out on the other bike and went straight back into a good rhythm to go fastest. Then it started to rain for Superpole and we put wets in, but I've never ridden this circuit in the wet and I was caught out in the first chicane like a few other guys."
"Unfortunately, I went down pretty hard on my left side and I've got a lot of pain in my shoulder and my wrist. The doctors think they can get me in a condition to race tomorrow but it's really one of these situations where we'll have to see how it feels in the morning."
Jakub Smrz says: "I'm really happy with the result, we did a good job the last couple days. I found a good feeling with the bike and with the track both in the wet and in the dry, despite having raced only once here last season. This is also my best result since the switch to Aprilia, hopefully will ride two good races tomorrow as well".
Michel Fabrizio says: "It was very difficult out there today; the Superpole becomes much more risky in the wet. Even on rain tires there was no traction and the rear of the bike was sliding around all over the place. In the second mini-session conditions got worse before they got better; I tried my best to hold on to a place in the top eight but it just wasn't possible today. I'll be starting from tenth and it'll be very tough; I'm disappointed as I thought we'd finish much further up today."
Noriyuki Haga says: "Track conditions were very strange. In the second phase I didn't think I could do any more to be honest and, risking a fall in the wet conditions, I decided to come back in. My technicians told me to make another lap but we were out of time. Unfortunately it then stopped raining right at the end and some of the guys improved on their times, which pushed me down to fifteenth position. It won't be the first time I start from the fourth row of the grid and I'll do my best, especially off the line."
Troy Corser says: "I am happy with today. The track was very greasy and it was catching out a lot of riders. So to be sixth on the grid for tomorrow's races is a good result for us. At this circuit there are a lot of surface changes that make the grip levels quite inconsistent. So you have to be extremely careful and gauge where you can push. I took my time to get comfortable with the conditions and then I just tried to improve with every lap. I am confident we can do a good job tomorrow and hopefully secure solid results for the team."
Ruben Xaus says: "We should be quite happy with today's result. The Superpole qualifying was really tough. First of all because of the weather, and on top of that I crashed during the second session. The asphalt in the corner where I crashed was very slippery. Max Biaggi ran a little wide, and Leon Haslam braked quite heavily. I was entering the corner faster than them, and wanted to avoid a crash. I braked hard, and just lost the bike."
"This maneuver would not have been a problem in dry conditions, but it was in the wet. I was able to jump on my second bike, and managed to do a really good flying lap. Unfortunately, in the final session I had to ride on used tires and struggled with the grip."
Matteo Baiocco says: "I'm really disappointed for my qualifying practice. I was really unlucky because I had some small technical problem with my first bike and I was unable to improve my yesterday best lap time because of the rain. Superpole was an attainable goal for me today and I know tomorrow's races will be very difficult, starting from sixth row, but I'm still positive and I will look for revenge in tomorrow races. I'll try my best to reach a good result."
Roger Lee Hayden says: "I'm pretty happy for my today results. I entered the Superpole but unfortunately I was not able to reach the second phase. This is not an easy track and with today's weather conditions it was really difficult find a good race pace. During the free practice. We tried a few different things and we definitely made some improvements. We are only a few tenths from the race pace and we will try again to improve a couple more tenths in tomorrow morning warm-up."
Cal Crutchlow says: "I'm a little bit sore after the crash but I'm not too worried about tomorrow's races. I think I know why I crashed; I had a cold tyre on the right hand side from not going fast enough on the out lap. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's races and we'll see how we get on."
James Toseland says: "It's fair to say that rain has spoiled play today here at Imola, not just for me but for Cal also, so as a team we are very disappointed. We've had good top speed all weekend and good race pace and I was really looking forward to Superpole to see what we could do. I'm starting from the fifth row of the grid tomorrow but there have been other unlucky guys out there as well."
Massimo Meregalli says: "Today was one of the most difficult Saturday's of the year; the rain has seriously compromised our qualifying practices and grid positions. For sure, the race will be hard for both riders and they will have to put in a lot of effort, especially at the beginning to try to catch the lead group. Having said that, both riders have good race pace and top speed so if they can achieve a good start they can challenge for the top five."