Photography by Gold & Goose
The fifth round of the 15-round World Superbike Championship got underway today at the track where the series first launched in 1988, Donington Park in England. It was Tom Sykes who laid down the first marker of the weekend by setting the fastest time in Friday’s qualifying session with a time of 1:30.278. Almost immediately after setting the time Sykes crashed out, possibly caught up in light rain falling on the far reaches of the 2.5-mile circuit. He was reportedly OK after the crash.
It was a cool day with rain in the area. Nearly all riders pitted in final minutes of the session when light rain began to fall.
It was last year's Donington winner Jonathan Rea who set the time to beat early in the session with a 1:33.4 on his Pata Honda. Sykes then became the first rider to break into the 1:32-second bracket when he clocked a 1:32.9 with about 30 minutes to go in the session.
In somewhat of a surprise, Sykes’ Kawasaki teammate Loris Baz briefly topped the scoring monitors when he tripped the lights at 1:32.7, but Sykes quickly went back to P1 with a blazing 1:31.4.
Sykes continued to improve his time in the closing stages of the session to a best of 1:30.278 before suffering his crash with nine minutes to go, just as a light rain moved over the track. Crescent Suzuki’s Jules Cluzel also crashed at about the same time.
The best World Superbike qualifying time turned at Donington is 1:28.988 set by Carlos Checa in 2011, the ultimate track Superbike record was set by Sykes last year with a 1:27.716 during the race.
While Sykes was clearly able to up his pace anytime he needed in Friday’s session, Rea and BMW’s Marco Melandri also showed plenty of speed, finishing the session second and third respectively.
World Superbike series leader Sylvain Guintoli qualified fourth on the factory Aprilia. He was immediately followed by Davide Giugliano on a satellite Aprilia.
The parity in World Superbike continued to show at Donington Park with five different brands of motorcycle in the top six qualifying position.
Leon Haslam was given clearance to ride this weekend, less than a month after breaking his left leg in two places and having surgery to insert a pin.
Qualifying continues Saturday with Superpole.
Donington - FIM Superbike World Championship - Qualifying 1
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'30.278
2. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 1'31.560
3. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'31.571
4. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'31.792
5. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'31.940
6. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'31.978
7. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'32.094
8. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'32.103
9. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'32.242
10. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'32.261
11. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'32.677
12. Niccolò Canepa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1098R 1'33.174
13. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 1'33.205
14. Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 1'33.402
15. Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 1'33.530
16. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 1'34.198
17. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'34.405
18. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'38.050
19. Alexander Lundh (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'37.334