When the opening day of World Superbike at Donington Park in the UK wrapped up Friday, it was the reigning champion Max Biaggi who landed on the provisional pole.
The Alitalia Aprilia rider posted a 1:28.794 in the first qualifying session (60 minutes, following a 60-minute Free Practice 1 session). The second fastest man, and only other rider to post under the 1:28 mark was Yamaha Factory World Superbike rider Marco Melandri.
Both Italians were followed by the man who doubled at the opening World Superbike round at Phillip Island, Althea Ducati’s Carlos Checa. Taking the final spot on the provisional front row behind the Spaniard was Melandri’s teammate, Eugene Laverty.
The WSBK grid will be back on the track Saturday for Free Practice 2, Qualifying Practice (both 45 minutes), followed by Superpole.
Here’s what the riders were saying following Friday’s Donington World Superbike sessions:
Max Biaggi (Alitalia Aprilia RSV4) says: “For once even on Friday people are talking about Biaggi and Aprilia! To be honest, we weren’t looking for the best time. As usual we are working to adapt our bike to this track.
“By pushing in order to verify some solutions, I obtained a comforting result and I’m pleased about that. Today we changed a lot of configurations, especially in the back, which we will be thinking over now, in order to turn up the best way possible tomorrow. I have my eye on the temperature. Here it is an important element for tire selection. You can really feel the difference even of just a few degrees, particularly in the long, fast turns.”
Leon Camier (Alitalia Aprilia RSV-4) says: “I’m pleasantly surprised. This first day of practice sessions went better than expected. Physically I reacted well and my pace on the track is also positive. Obviously we still have a lot of work to do in order to be competitive in the race, but also to take the best possible advantage of our potential in Superpole which is not my strong point. I’d say that we’ve got a good starting point; now all we need to do is continue improving and I’m sure that our work will pay off.”
Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati 1198) says: “This is the first time I’ve ridden the 1198 at Donington and so I’m quite satisfied with the third place obtained today. We still have work to do tomorrow of course, mainly on my speed through certain sections of the track because I’m losing a couple of tenths to the leaders and we need to solve that.
“The important thing here though is to be consistent and we’re doing fairly well in that respect. I’d say that there will be five or six riders fighting at the front on Sunday and I hope to be part of that group. Tomorrow the work continues, we’ll try to improve stability and braking but all in all I can say we’re feeling quite confident.”
Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team YZF-R1) says: “It was a very positive first day, the bike’s basic set up is good and that’s a good sign, so overall I’m very happy. I feel much better physically and I’ve become more confident on the bike.
“We have to decide what race tires to use as the temperature of the asphalt changes from the morning to the evening and therefore it’s not easy to decide. The team is working very hard to be ready for everything so let’s see what happens tomorrow and let’s hope for a good Superpole. I’m looking forward to it!”
Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team YZF-R1) says: “A very good first practice this morning. We were low down in the classification but we knew that what we were testing this afternoon would make a big step and a guarantee a provisional front row which is perfect. It’s nice to put a safe lap in now which should put us through to Superpole. Tomorrow morning we’ll work on our race setting and be ready for the two races on Sunday.”
Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare GSX-R1000) says: “The new section of the track, at the Fogarty Esses, has made the lap times faster and the track is a bit more flowing now. It’s quite a technical track and it’s vital to have a good set-up if you want to lap quickly. It’s the kind of track where, if you mess up one corner, you’re going to mess up the whole lap.
“Today I struggled a bit with rear grip, but part of the problem was that we had some new forks to try and quite a few adjustments to make. I think that they are an improvement, so now we’ll have to work on them and improve the feeling. This is normal work, but something that just has to be done.
“In the qualifying session this afternoon, I got hit from behind and crashed and was lucky to escape injury. I feel sorry for my mechanics because they have a lot of work to do to repair the damage and replace a lot of parts.”
Maxime Berger (Supersonic Ducati 1198) says: “I am very happy with the results from today. A really good day! We found very early a good set up and I managed to find a good feeling with my Ducati, especially with the front. In the afternoon I was able to push hard and improved a lot compared to this morning.
“For tomorrow, I will continue to work on the set up of my Ducati 1198 with my team; they did today a great job. Our goal for tomorrow is to qualify for what would be the first Superpole of my career and to further improve the bike set-up for Sunday’s two races. Superpole is after the good results from today within our reach.”
Roberto Rolfo (Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R) says: “I’m pretty satisfied with my performance in today’s practice and qualifying. This afternoon I was able to improve a lot on my best lap time of the morning and also my pace.
“We started with the same set up we had identified in Phillip Island and I worked a lot with my technicians during the qualifying session to improve it. I quickly found a good pace and we are not so far from the fastest riders. This afternoon we also tested a new gear setting and this helped me to find a better feeling with my bike. For tomorrow my target is to enter the Superpole and to obtain a good position on Sunday’s starting grid.”
Mark Aitchison (Team Pedercinin Kawasaki ZX-10R) says: “Today was a very difficult day for me. I didn’t make the best of starts because I crashed during the morning free practice session. I didn’t feel comfortable on my bike in that session, but my team worked very hard and we were able to find some improvements and I started to feel more comfortable.
“We found a new setting this afternoon and although I still have to make further improvements on this circuit I’m happy with the work we completed this afternoon and for tomorrow I’m sure we’ll be able to improve further.”
Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) says: “Another month off the bike did me no good at all and I was a little bit lost this morning! It took me all the first session to find a rhythm again but I told myself not to think about it and just to ride and put some laps together. I said to myself: ‘It’s just some tarmac and two black tires!’
“This afternoon I was really struggling for grip at the two hairpins, because of the bumps, mainly – but the rest of the lap was good. It was so good that I couldn’t really push any more in those parts to get a better time.
“We’ll look for some solutions tonight and maybe change the balance a little, but it’s also difficult to stop the bike in the first 20 meters. I’m pretty happy really, so we’ll go some more tomorrow.”
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) says: “Phillip Island was horrendous but at least I was near the top looking down. Now I’m near the bottom looking up! We got off to a good start this morning and the prime tyre was working OK at the end of that session. We started with that again this afternoon but tried a few other options, too.
“We couldn’t really find a way forward and were really off the pace. So we put the prime tyre back in and had some big problems. It was completely unbalanced and had moved on the rim and it seemed it was shaped a bit like an egg. It was jumping off the ground when I was hard on the gas which made it difficult to get rhythm.
“Luckily Ruben’s in the ballpark with everyone else so we’ll be able to look at some good fast data tonight. We’ll keep our heads up and tomorrow will be fine.”
Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia S1000RR) says: “Today went very well. I missed the final lap because I made a mistake but I was able to confirm that we have made a remarkable step forward. We were constantly in the first 15 although there are still things that need fixing. We have a good margin for improvement. Tonight the engineers have a lot of information to work with and we will try to do better tomorrow.”
Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad S1000RR) says: “Today has gone well for us. The track was a little dirty this morning, which made riding slightly tricky, but other than that so far we have done a good job. Basically we have just been going through the motions with setup, trying to identify areas to improve the bike so we can keep reducing our lap times.
“I haven’t been here for two years so I am improving with every lap, and I think I can continue that into tomorrow. The team is working hard, the progress so far has been good and I think we are in with a good chance of qualifying well tomorrow.”
Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad S1000RR) says: “This Friday was not too bad. They have changed the track a little bit, but I enjoy riding at Donington. You have to be a little bit careful with the left hand side of the tyre, so I did this going down through the Craner Curves.
“But the bike seems to be working quite okay. We still feel the bumps badly, and the bike still wants to do a wheelie off the apex of the corners. We are working on improving these areas and this would mean another good step.
“The way the bike feels and the lap times are good, and we are not that far away from the fast guys. This was probably one of the best Fridays we have had for a long time.”