PORTIMAO, Portugal – Close competition was the key factor in Friday’s Qualifying 1 for the eni FIM Superbike World Championship in Portimao, Portugal. Under dry track conditions and good temperatures throughout all 45 minutes available the top-10 riders were – in the end – all within a second of each other.
Ulsterman Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) stormed to the top in the final stages to secure first place by just .052 over Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) and .097 on the “King of Donington” Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team).
Factory Aprilia rider Sylvain Guintoli rode to a final fourth place followed by Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Aprilia) and the works BMW duo of Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies.
Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare) showed some good signs of recovery after the unfortunate but almost inevitable withdrawal from race two in the previous round to end up eighth ahead of Leon Camier (FIXI Crescent Suzuki), Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare).
French WSBK rookie Jules Cluzel (12th) lost control of his FIXI Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 for a seemingly innocent crash at turn three with a few minutes left on the clock. It was again a tough ride for 13th place Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike), still dealing with the difficult left leg injury that is heavily affecting his performance.
There was no time set by Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma Aprilia), following the encouraging second place in FP1, as the rider from Rome was stopped twice by technical problems on his RSV4.
After leading the first World Supersport free practice session, Sam Lowes (Yakhnich Motorsport Yamaha) found himself on top again by setting the best lap-time in Q1. The current Championship leader was in first place already as the session was drawing to an end, but he decided to get back on track anyway to further improve his performance to a final 1:45.724, 0.522 seconds quicker than main rival for the World Supersport title Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki).
Following the encouraging performance last time out at Donington, Irishman Jack Kennedy (Rivamoto Honda) proved to be again on the right pace in qualifying as he finished third ahead of an impressive David Salom (Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki), considering his four-round absence due to a complicated hand injury.
French WSS veteran Fabien Foret (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) ended up with a competitive fifth despite a 1.225 seconds gap from the top.
Defending STK1000 Champion Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad GoldBet) made the most out of Qualifying 1 to get a provisional pole position. The Frenchman was the only rider able to lap within 1:45 and was followed by race winner at Monza Lorenzo Savadori (Team Pedercini Kawasaki).
The sun popped out from behind the clouds before the start of Qualifying 1 meaning the STK600 riders could perform at their very best at the spectacular Autodromo do Algarve. Australia’s Adrian Nestorovic (MTM-MVR Racing Team Yamaha) – who scored his maiden podium finish in the series last year at Portimao – and Franco Morbidelli (San Carlo Team Italia Kawasaki) were able to get ahead of early leader Gauthier Duwelz to finish first and second, respectively, within 0.057 seconds of each other.
Superbike Qualifying Times
1.Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:43.551 (159.643km/h)
2. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) 1:43.603
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:43.648
4. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1:43.934
5. Davide Giugliano (Aprilia) 1:44.017
6. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1:44.026
7. Chaz Davies (BMW) 1:44.245
8. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1:44.246
9. Leon Camier (Suzuki) 1 :44.278
10. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) 1:44.496
11. Ayrton Badovini (Ducati) 1:44.550
12. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) 1 :44.593
13. Leon Haslam (Honda) 1:45.075
14. Max Neukirchner (Ducati) 1:45.827