Photography by Gold & Goose
Tom Sykes continued his brilliant run of pole positions today at Monza in the fourth round of the World Superbike Championship, the 27-year-old bearded Brit and his Kawasaki clocking a 1:41.223 in the final session of Superpole to not only earn his third consecutive pole of the season, but also to set a new outright Monza Superbike lap record. The old mark was set by Max Biaggi in 2011 – a 1:41.745.
Sykes edged Irishman Eugene Laverty, who held the pole for about 10 seconds with a time 1:41.301 on the factory Aprilia, before Sykes clicked off his fast lap. Rounding out the front row is Laverty’s teammate, Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli. Last year’s pole winner clocked a 1:41.542 on his Aprilia RSV4.
Even though by now many assume Sykes is the rider to beat in Superpole, the man himself did not.
“I’m very happy; I wasn’t expecting that here to be honest,” said Sykes, who earned his 14th-career Superpole in World Superbike. “We’ve all seen how fast the Aprilia been on the straights. It’s definitely nice for them to have that kind of speed in their pockets. Credit to my guys - we made the most of where the ZX-10R is strong and today it paid off. Everyone’s got quite a good pace. There are a handful of riders who can run consistently in some good lap times, so tomorrow we just need to think a little bit wisely and try to make it count.”
Sykes has one more advantage at the iconic Italian circuit. He is the defending winner at Monza.
Laverty seemed a bit surprised by the speed in qualifying today.
“I thought a low 41 might be enough to do it,” Laverty said of laying down his marker. “But Tom beat me to it. The front row is important and our race pace is good as well. It’s going to be an interesting race with so many riders going fast at the front. Hopefully with the RSV4 power we can take full advantage and hopefully the top speed is there for us. It should be a good race.”
Last year’s pole winner and current series points leader Sylvain Guintoli turned in another solid performance Saturday by coming through on the final lap, just as the checkered flag flew, to bounce Jonathan Rea off the front row. As always the Frenchman is keeping his focus on the big picture.
“We are running good with the race tires,” Guintoli said. “Once again we failed to get that watch, but I’ve got one from last year [laughs]. So yeah, we’ll be all right. The most important was to be on the first row for tomorrow. I think it’s going to be a great race. It looks like many riders on the same pace so hopefully we can put up a good fight and put on a good show and come back from here with some big points.”
Guintoli was spot on about a number of riders on a very quick pace at Monza. The top six qualifiers were all in the 1:41 bracket and with Monza’s long straights drafting always comes into play.
Carlos Checa, meanwhile, has opted out of this weekend’s race to give his injured shoulder more time to heal.
World Superbike racing from Monza is live on Bein Sports on Sunday starting at 6 a.m. Eastern.
Monza - FIM Superbike World Championship - Superpole 3
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'41.223
2. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'41.301
3. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'41.542
4. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 1'41.798
5. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'41.819
6. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'41.926
7. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'42.680
8. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'42.808
9. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'42.955
10. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'42.469
11. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'42.726
12. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 1'43.801
13. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 1'44.246
14. Fabrizio Lai (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'44.883
15. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'44.889
16. Mark Aitchison (Team Effenbert Liberty Racing) Ducati 1098R 1'46.523
17. Kosuke Akiyoshi (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 1'46.631
18. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'46.827
19. Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 1'44.763