It’s Tight At The Top As Biaggi Leads

Cycle News Staff | April 3, 2009

Max Biaggi put the factory Aprilia into the top spot in today’s qualifying session for Sunday’s two World Superbike races at the Valencia Circuit in Spain, the Italian leading a tightly knit group with the top 17 riders within the same second of Biaggi’s best.Biaggi ended up taking the top spot with eight minutes to go and he did so right after Yamaha’s Ben Spies had moved to the top. Spies ripped off a 1:34.907 only to see Biaggi’s 1:34.775 better it a few moments later. Still, the difference was just.132 of a second.Third fastest today and the third man to lap in the 1:34s was Xerox Ducati’s Noriyuki Haga. The World Championship points leader lapped at 1:34.908 – just .001 of a second slower than his championship rival Spies.Then came Haga’s teammate Michel Fabrizio, the Italian moving to second with 24 minutes to go in the 40-minute session and he stayed there until the other three made their late-session push to the top. Fabrizio lapped at 1:35.243 to lead a horde of riders in the 1:35-range.Next was Yamaha’s Tom Sykes, Spies’ British teammate on the factory R1. Sykes ended up fifth, just .008 of a second quicker than Jakub Smrz, the Ducati-mounted Czech. The first of the factory Suzukis was next, ridden by Max Neukirchner. The German led his teammate Yukio Kagayama, the Japanese rider completing the provisional second row of the grid.The first of the Honda was the Hannspree Ten Kate CBR1000RR ridden by Jonathan Rea, the Brit barely besting his teammate Ryuichi Kiyonari – the 10th fastest rider only .597 of a second behind Biaggi.Stiggy Honda’s John Hopkins finished his first World Superbike qualifying session in 18th place – but just 1.093 of a second off provisional pole.Carlos Checa, who led this morning’s free practice at his home race, slipped to 15th in the qualifying session. The first of the BMWs, meanwhile, was ridden to 13th today by Troy Corser.The Superbike lap record at Valencia is held by Neil Hodgson at 1:35.007 with Max Neukirchner lapping at 1:33.805 during last year’s Superpole session.

Friday Qualifying

1.                  Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:34.775

2.                  Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:34.907

3.                  Noriyuki Haga (Ducati) 1:34.908

4.                  Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) 1:35.243

5.                  Tom Sykes (Yamaha) 1:35.270

6.                  Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:35.278

7.                  Max Neukirchner (Suzuki) 1:35.285

8.                  Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki) 1:35.316

9.                  Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:35.328

10.                  Riyuchi Kiyonari (Honda) 1:35.41618. John Hopkins (Honda) 1:35.868