The World Superbike men ended their long summer break today with the opening practice and qualifying sessions for Sunday's two races at the Nurburgring in Germany and it was Max Biaggi leading the fray on a fast and furious Friday.
Biaggi was a lowly 11th in the morning session as riders and teams rid themselves of the cobwebs from not racing in over a month, but when it counted the Aprilia man was at the top. The defending World Champion lapped the 3.18-mile Nurburgring in 1:55.524 right at the end to get the upper hand on season-long championship leader Carlos Checa. Checa rode the Althea Ducati to the second quickest time after leading this morning's session and most of the afternoon session. He ended the day .149 of a second slower than Biaggi, who is hoping to claw back some of the 62-point lead Checa holds over him in the title chase.
Marco Melandri rode the factory Yamaha to the third quickest time, a 1:55.819 as he was the final rider in the 1:55s. Three Italians filled the top four with Alstare Suzuki's Michel Fabrizio ending the day fourth on the provisional front row. Fabrizio just missed getting into the 55s with his 1:56.085 and he did so on his back-up bike after crashing his favored GSX-R1000 early in the session.
The provisional front row features four different manufacturers - Aprilia, Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki.
Then came the second factory Yamaha ridden by Eugene Laverty, the Northern Irelander leading Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing's Sylvain Guintoli and the returning Jonathan Rea on the Castrol Honda.
Rea, in his comeback race after suffering a broken arm, collarbone and wrist, which required surgery, in a crash at Misano on June 12, was .801 of a second off Biaggi's pace.
Maxime Berger rode the Supersonic Ducati to the eighth quickest time today, besting the Kawasaki of Tom Sykes and the factory BMW of Leon Haslam.
There are only 20 World Superbikes taking part in the German round of the series this weekend.
1. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1:55.524
2. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:55.673
3. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) 1:55.819
4. Michael Fabrizio (Suzuki) 1:56.085
5. Eugene Laverty (Yamaha) 1:56.197
6. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 1:56.319
7. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:56.325
8. Maxime Berger (Ducati) 1:56.338
9. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:56.353
10. Leon Haslam (BMW) 1:56.354