Yamaha Motor Italia’s Nori Haga was fastest in the dry first third of Friday’s Superbike qualifying at Magny-Cours, France, which put him on the provisional pole for Sunday’s penultimate round of the World Superbike Championship.
Three riders clocked the fastest time in a span of 14 seconds before rain began to fall just under 20 minutes into the one hour session. The rain was light at first before stopping, then fell hard with about 15 minutes to go. Most riders only completed seven or eight laps before the rain fell the first time and didn’t return to the track.
The first of the three to set fast time in the final dry minute was Team Suzuki Alstare’s Fonsi Nieto, who would finish fourth. Hannspree Althea Honda’s Roby Rolfo bested Nieto’s time, but qualified sixth. And then came Haga, the Japanese rider who lapped the 2.74-mile track in 1:41.012 mins. to set the fast time.
Haga’s time fell well short of the circuit best lap of 1:38.501 mins. held by 2007 World Superbike Champion James Toseland.
On his final dry lap Ducati Xerox’s Troy Bayliss slotted into second, only .080 secs. down on Haga, one of only three riders with a slim mathematical chance of denying Bayliss his third World Superbike Championship. The other two are Yamaha Motor Italia’s Troy Corser, who qualified fifth, and Team Alstare Suzuki’s Max Neukirchner, who was tenth.
Bayliss goes into Sunday's two races with 79 points on Corser and 89 on Haga and Neukirchner. Bayliss needs to finish Sunday's first race with a 75 point lead to take the crown and give Ducati their 15th title in the 21-year history of the championship.
Spaniard Carlos Checa celebrated his re-signing with the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team by qualifying third. Then came Nieto, Corser, and Rolfo.
R.G. Team’s Lorenzo Lanzi (Duc) was seventh in front of Sterilgarda Go Eleven’s Ruben Xaus (Duc), Team Suzuki Alstare’s Yukio Kagayama, and Neukirchner.
The top 12 riders were all on the same second.
1. Nori Haga (Yamaha) 1:41.012
2. Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 1:41.020
3. Carlos Checa (Honda) 1:41.130
4. Fonsi Nieto (Suzuki) 1:41.513
5. Troy Corser (Yamaha) 1:41.515
6. Roby Rolfo (Honda) 1:41.681
7. Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati) 1:41.783
8. Ruben Xaus (Ducati) 1:41.885
9. Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki) 1:41.892
10. Max Neukirchner (Suzuki) 1:41.900