Leaving the factory machines in his wake for the second day in succession, Shane Byrne (Sterilgarda Ducati) used his final lap to secure the top slot on the leader board, and was all set to try for an even faster lap before he realized that the checkered flag was already out. He set a 1:’43.294, which beat Troy Bayliss’ previous track best of 1:43.340. It was enough to hold off the factory Yamaha R1 of Ben Spies and the factory Ducati of Noriyuki Haga, who had led the session immediately before. Byrne was mobbed by media when he came back into pitlane, although most attention had initially gathered outside the Yamaha and Ducati Xerox pits, in expectation of Spies or Haga leading the rest home. The afternoon session finished a little late, as privateer Honda rider Vittorio Iannuzzo (Squadra Corse Italia Honda) left a trail of smoke on the exit of the final corner, and down the main straight. The red flag came out to stop the action until checks were made on the track surface. It was given a clean bill of health with just over 10 minutes remaining, making the second WSB session of day two a tense time, particularly as Byrne – a two time British Superbike title winner and two-time World Superbike race winner at Brands Hatch – showed his previous test performances were not in any way ‘flukey.’ Praising his team he stated, “I think this team works at a very high level and the know and understand these bikes. Last year [In BSB] we jumped on the Ducati and it worked fantastically from the word go. This bike is an ongoing thing from that. The transition for me is very good, the transition to the Sterilgarda team is also very good. Every time I have a problem and I speak to Alberto my engineer, he looks at the data and we try something. We had a few things to work with today and we have boxed-off two or three of them. I think there is more to come tomorrow if we have good conditions. I was happy with today’s lap time and to be honest I didn’t know I had gone that fast, or know the session had finished either! I came round the second turn and into the third, ready to push really hard and there were people doing practice starts. I suddenly thought, “…the session must be finished!” We have a little bit more work to do with the electronics on the bike but I think we can go even better. We only have standard tyres at the moment but for me that is cool. Unless the tyres the other guys are trying prove to be better, then everybody has to race these standard tyres anyway. It would be good to try the new stuff and go fast on it, but if Pirelli decide they don’t want to use the tyres for the races then all that work is for nothing. So I am quite happy to be on the standard rubber.” Recovering from his broken foot, injured at the Kyalami tests in December, English rider Tom Sykes (Yamaha World Superbike) was fourth fastest, finding his machine improving with each session. Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) returned to form today to post fifth best time, while Max Neukirchner took the top Suzuki slot once more. He was sixth and less than 0.4 seconds from Byrne’s remarkable best lap. Jakub Smrz was seventh fastest on an almost fully dry track surface, before crashing his Guandalini Ducati) late on. Michel Fabrizio went eighth, Checa’s team-mate Jonathan Rea ninth and Leon Haslam rounded out the top ten, with all of that group within a second of the leader. The top 19 riders finished within two seconds of the quickest rider. Troy Corser, who led the damp morning session, was 12th on the BMW S1000RR. His team-mate Ruben Xaus was second in the morning session, but crashed, having run wide to allow a faster rider through, then toppling over as he ran off the circuit. He was only 26th today, more than three seconds from the quickest time. Shinya Nakano’s best placing of 17th on the Aprilia proved that the radical vee-four still has development work to do, despite its obvious high potential. His team mate, Max Biaggi, was only one place behind. Times: 1. Byrne S. (GBR) Ducati 1098R 1’43.294; 2. Spies B. (USA) Yamaha YZF R1 1’43.484; 3. Haga N. (JPN) Ducati 1098R 1’43.487; 4. Sykes T. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 1’43.546; 5. Checa C. (ESP) Honda CBR1000RR 1’43.657; 6. Neukirchner M. (GER) Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1’43.674; 7. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 1’43.767; 8. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1’43.951; 9. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1’44.115; 10. Haslam L. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1’44.170; 11. Kagayama Y. (JPN) Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1’44.425; 12. Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 1’44.479; 13. Laconi R. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 1’44.546; 14. Kiyonari R. (JPN) Honda CBR1000RR 1’44.610; 15. Parkes B. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX 10R 1’44.704; 16. Polita A. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1’45.108; 17. Nakano S. (JPN) Aprilia RSV4 1’45.179; 18. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 1’45.260; 19. Roberts B. (AUS) Ducati 1098R 1’45.278; 20. Salom D. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX 10R 1’45.393; 21. Tamada M. (JPN) Kawasaki ZX 10R 1’45.446; 22. Lavilla G. (ESP) Honda CBR1000RR 1’45.672; 23. Hill T. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1’45.679; 24. Scassa L. (ITA) Kawasaki ZX 10R 1’45.820; 25. Xaus R. (ESP) BMW S1000 RR 1’46.128; 26. Rolfo R. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 1’46.916; 27. Iannuzzo V. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 1’46.971.
Byrne Still Fastest: UPDATED
Gordon Ritchie | World Superbike Editor
You may not understand Ritchie and his Scottish accent if you had him on the phone, but you can definitely understand what he writes as our World Superbike editor.