Photography by Gold & Goose

World Superbike riders battled less than ideal conditions at the Dutch round in preliminary qualifying at the Circuit van Drenthe in Assen, Holland today. Light rain, wind and cool conditions greeted competitors and it was Tom Sykes who best overcame the dicey conditions to set the fastest Friday qualifying time of 1:57.190 aboard his factory Provec Kawasaki ZX-10R.

Sykes was one of six riders who managed to crack the two-minute barrier on the wet track. Times were over 20 seconds off what would be expected under normal dry conditions.

Coming second to Sykes on Friday was Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli (1:58.824), the championship leader who is back to the track that last year gave him his maiden win. Next was Guintoli’s Aprilia teammate Eugene Laverty (1:59.068), who nipped BMW’s Marco Melandri (1:59. 316) at the very end of the session to take third.

Davide Giugliano and Ayrton Badovini were the other two riders in the sub-two-minute category.

The treacherous conditions in qualifying (and the earlier free practice session) caught several riders out. It was a disastrous morning for Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam. The Brit crashed towards the end of free practice and suffered a broken lower leg that will require surgery.

Other notable fallers included Aragon double winner Chaz Davies, who crashed midway through the afternoon qualifying session.

Badovini led Friday’s qualifying early before being displaced by Sykes. Badovini, who suffered injury to his right leg at the opening round in Australia, crashed with three minutes to go in the session. No word at press time on whether or not Badovini aggravated his leg injury.

Leon Camier was back battling to be fit for Assen as he recovers from a knee injury. The Fixi Crescent Suzuki rider suffered a severe wound to his knee in a Friday practice crash at the last round in Aragón, and was forced to miss out on racing after undergoing surgery. The former British Superbike Champion qualified 10th on Friday.

For Sykes it was a case of having plenty of speed on tap. He already had the pole with a 1:58.280 (set about halfway through the session). That time would have held, but the Brit decided to go out one more time on the final lap of the qualifying session to put in another stab at a fast lap for insurance. It resulted in a brilliant run over a second faster than his earlier time. Sykes ended up being over 1.6 seconds faster than second place Guintoli.

Sykes is looking to improve on his previous Assen performances. His best result at the classic circuit to date is still the one of his first weekends here, in 2009 with Yamaha, when he was fourth in race one and sixth in race two. Last year he started from pole, but he suffered a radiator failure while he was leading race one and in race two he experienced setup problems which left him in sixth at the flag.

Qualifying continues Saturday with Superpole leading up to Sunday’s race which will broadcast on BeIn Sports live Sunday morning at 6:00 am Eastern.

Assen - FIM Superbike World Championship – Friday Qualifying 1
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'57.190
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'58.824
3. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'59.068
4. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'59.316
5. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'59.317
6. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 1'59.754
7. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 2'00.197
8. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 2'00.553
9. Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 2'01.706
10. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 2'01.728
11. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 2'02.039
12. Mark Aitchison (Team Effenbert Liberty Racing) Ducati 1098R 2'02.685
13. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 2'02.915
14. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 2'03.384
15. Alexander Lundh (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 2'04.401
16. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 2'04.582
17. Ivan Clementi (HTM Racing) BMW S1000 RR 2'04.849
18. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 2'19.197
19. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 2'07.893

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