Former eni Superbike World Champion Max Biaggi earned pole position for Sunday’s two feature races in Tissot-SuperPole action at the Nurburgring in Germany. The lead Aprilia RSV4 Factory rider (pictured above) set a new lap record with a best effort of 1:53.855 late in the third and final portion of SuperPole action, one of only three riders to dip into the record 1:53 range.
Second belonged to Tom Sykes, who went all-out on soft Pirelli qualifying slick tires as the crucial final SuperPole session ended. Sykes just managed to begin his last lap of the 5.137km venue before the chequered flag was displayed, and some competitors were slowing on the track, ready to practice their starts, as the lead Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja blasted by.
In the end Sykes could manage only a lap of 1:53.904, less than .05 of a second from top spot. Third best was the works BMW Motorrad S1000RR entry of Championship point leader Marco Melandri, with a time of 1:53.912.
‘Roman Emperor’ Biaggi, Sykes and Melandri were the only competitors to dip into the 1:53 bracket – times that will not be duplicated with harder tires and full fuel tanks in Sunday’s two 20-lap events.
With three rounds left in the 2012 eni Superbike World Championship, encompassing six races, the fight for the crown is very close. Melandri leads with a total of 308.5 points, followed in second by Biaggi at 290 and then Sykes with a score to date of 267.5. It is likely that the next SBK World Champ will come from this group of three, the same trio that set the pace in Tissot-SuperPole.
Two incidents delayed proceedings: David Salom had a big crash with the Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja, bringing the red flag out for the opening portion of SuperPole just two minutes into the scheduled action. In the second session, Leon Haslam crashed his BMW Motorrad S1000RR in a gravel trap outside the final Chicane, with minimal effect to the rest of the 12 rider “knock out” field. Salom will grid 16th, last of the SuperPole runners, while Haslam starts 12th.
Fourth overall, and the rider completing the first row of the grid, was Biaggi’s team-mate Eugene Laverty, with a best run at 1:54.148. Pole on the second row belongs to the works Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR of Jonathan Rea, quickest rider heading into SuperPole and the previous circuit lap record holder dating back to 2010.
Expected Sunday star Rea lapped at a time of 1:54.300, and was closely followed by Carlos Checa’s Althea Ducati 1098 in sixth with a lap of 1:54.322. Checa is second overall in the Tissot-SuperPole rankings for the year, with 156 points, 103 behind leader Sykes!
Seventh in SuperPole and also on the starting grid is the domain of Leon Camier, showing continued strong form with the Fixi Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000. Row two will be completed by the eighth best running works Kawasaki ZX-10R Nina of rapid French youngster Loris Baz.
Canadian Brett McCormick was an interested SuperPole observer, since neither the 21-year-old from Saskatchewan nor his Team Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati team-mates made it into SuperPole. McCormick anticipates a solid outing on Sunday, his first race start since suffering serious injuries at SBK round three in the Netherlands, four months ago. McCormick will line-up in pole for row six, right behind fellow Effenbert Beer-backed team-mates Lorenzo Lanzi and Maxime Berger. The trio qualified in 19th, 20th and 21st positions, new equipe recruit Lanzi leading with a best lap of 1:57.5.