Photography By: Gold & Goose.
More than a month after the World Superbike season opener in Australia, the championship returned to its roots for the European heart of the campaign with a typically crowded first qualifying session at the Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit in Imola, Italy.
The resurgent Kawasaki team of Joan Lascorz and Tom Sykes were set to finish Friday qualifying one-two until Jakub Smrz (Liberty Racing Team Effenbert Ducati) threw in a scorcher with the last of his 15 laps to steal the provisional pole by a scant .030 sec.
That dropped the Spaniard Lascorz to second and the Brit Sykes to third, at .070 to his teammate. And the final rider on the provisional front row, former world champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing Team), was .001 sec. behind Sykes. The front four were separated by .101 sec.
Honda World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea was fifth, just .074 sec. from Biaggi, with Leon Haslam at a gap of .007 sec. to Rea on the first of the factory BMWs. Reigning world champion Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) was seventh in front of Smrz’s teammate Sylvain Guintoli. By comparison, the second row was covered by .234 sec.
And Guintoli was one of three riders separated by .001 sec. Ninth fastest Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) had an identical time to Guintoli with Crescent Fixi Suzuki’s Leon Camier a mere .001 sec. back. The time difference from first to tenth was just .410 sec.
Camier’s teammate didn’t fare as well. In his first qualifying session of the year, John Hopkins qualified 18th and 1.644 sec. off pole. That was a small improvement from the morning free practice when Hopkins was 2.2 secs. off pace in 19th place. Hopkins missed the Phillip Island opener after breaking a bone in his right hand in pre-season testing at Phillip Island.
World Superbike Qualifying Results:
1. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1:48.146
2. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaski) 1:48.176
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:48.246
4. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:28.247
5. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:48.321
6. Leon Haslam (BMW) 1:48.328
7. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:48.375
8. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 1:48.555
9. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) 1:48.555
10. Leon Camier (Suzuki) 1:48.556
18. John Hopkins (Suzuki) 1:49.790