Photography by Andrea Wilson
MONTEREY, CA, SEPT. 27 – Just when it looked as though the Ducati team was finally going to have something to hang their hats on after the first day of qualifying for this weekend’s U.S. World Superbike round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, BMW’s Marco Melandri stole their thunder with the quickest lap of the day on the very final lap of the day to seal provisional pole position in advance of tomorrow’s Superpole session.
Prior to Melandri’s final-lap flyer, it was World Superstock series regular Niccolo Canepa giving Ducati something to smile about as he shot to the top of the order with some five minutes ago with the first sub 1:24 lap of Laguna Seca with his 1:23.938. But before the celebrations could begin, Melandri snatched it away from the rider who is filling in for the injured Carlos Checa, the Italian veteran lapping at 1:23.775 to lead the way heading to Superpole.
Canepa held on for second on the Panigale, besting Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes – the British leader of the World Championship filling the provisional front row.
Behind Sykes came the man he is fighting for the championship – Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli. Fifth went to Chaz Davies on the second factory BMW, the Welshman struggling for most of the session before finding the pace.
Sixth place? Well that went to the revelation of the day – Jordan Motorsports’ Danny Eslick, the AMA Superbike regular making the very most of his World Superbike debut to turn his fastest ever lap of the track in the hills east of the Monterey Peninsula. Eslick lapped at 1:24.345 – just .570 off pole position.
Davide Guigliano bounced back from an off-track excursion in turn two to finish the day seventh on the Althea Racing Aprilia – one spot better than the factory Aprilia of Eugene Laverty.
Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam and Team Ducati Alstare’s Aytron Badovini rounded out the top 10.
Roger Lee Hayden will join his teammate Eslick in tomorrow’s Superpole session after ending the day with the 14th fastest time. Hayden spent most of the second session in the pits and failed to better his time of 1:24.845 from the first session.
The third American in the race – Fixi Crescent Suzuki’s Blake Young – failed to make Superpole. Young crashed at the end of the session while on his best lap of the day and ended up 17th – one spot from Superpole.
World Superbike Qualfiying Results
Friday, September 27
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
1. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1:23.775
2. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) 1:23.938
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:24.153
4. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1:24.303
5. Chaz Davies (BMW) 1:24.334
6. Danny Eslick (Suzuki) 1:24.345
7. Davide Guigliano (Aprilia) 1:24.373
8. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) 1:24.395
9. Leon Haslam (Honda) 1:24.592
10. Aytron Badovini (Ducati)
14. Roger Lee Hayden (Suzuki) 1:24.845
17. Blake Young (Suzuki) 1:25.661