PHOTOGRAPHY BY GOLD & GOOSE
PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA, FEB 22 – While rookie Alex Lowes went into Superpole as the fastest man in the World Superbike paddock, it was Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli who would leave the session as the fastest man on a Superbike at the Phillip Island Circuit.
Guintoli's record here last year should have spoken for itself, but there was a question mark surrounding the Frenchman as he was returning from shoulder surgery that kept him off of a bike for a good part of the off season. And Guintoli’s answer to that question was a pole-setting lap of 1:30.038, beating the track record set last year by Carlos Checa on the Ducati.
“Yeah, today I felt good,” Guintoli said. “This winter’s been odd because I spent almost four months without riding a bike, well any bike actually. So I was a little bit concerned about how well I could go but, obviously, it’s not been a problem. The Aprilia’s working really well here, just like last year, and it’s no secret that this place, this circuit is one of my favorites.”
For Guintoli the question mark in his mind was how strong his shoulder really was. And so the qualifying session also gave him his answer and he goes into tomorrow’s race confident to challenge for the win.
“My main concern was the strength of the shoulder on the quick lap,” Guintoli said. “Because you have to push harder with the qualifying tire and it felt great. So I think tomorrow I’ll be strong and I’ve really enjoyed racing here so I’m expecting a good race.”
Behind Guintoli was Ducati’s Davide Giugliano, the Italian leading for most of the session only to be displaced by Guintoli with some five minutes to go. Guintoli’s teammate Marco Melandri finished third, making it an all-Italian manufacturer front row.
Although it was not the pole position, Melandri was quite happy to finish in third after his crash in FP3.
“It was an awesome qualifying for me,” Melandri said. “Because after the crash this morning I lose a little bit of feeling in the front, so I say to my crew chief before the qualifying that second row should be a really good result for me.
“It’s so important for tomorrow to have a good start. I think the pace we can get in the race is going to be pretty good, but many riders will fight for a win. So we see tomorrow, but it’s a good start for sure and so happy.”
In fourth was Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Eugene Laverty, who edged out his teammate Lowes by .036 of a second.
Lowes, another of casualties of this morning’s FP3 session, injured his ankle in the crash and it put him at less than a 100 percent for the Superpole session.
Behind Lowes was Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki’s Loris Baz.
Reigning Superbike champ Tom Sykes finished a disappointing eighth after losing the front in Lukey Heights on what was a potential pole-setting lap.
Rea’s teammate Leon Haslam finished ninth after transferring from the Superpole 1 session. And rounding out the top-10 was Niccolo Cannepa who earned the honors of being the highest qualifying EVO bike.
2014 Phillip Island World Superbike Qualifying Results
1. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia)
2. Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
3. Marco Melandri (Aprilia)
4. Eugene Laverty (Suzuki)
5. Alex Lowes (Suzuki)
6. Jonathan Rea (Honda)
7. Loris Baz (Kawasaki)
8. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
9. Leon Haslam (Honda)
10. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati)