PORTIMAO, Portugal – Under the grey skies of the Autodromo International do Algarve, the eni FIM Superbike World Championship riders tackled the sixth Tissot-Superpole of the season on Saturday.
An incredibly close battle for the top slot on the grid saw Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) score his 16th career pole position by just a thousandth of a second over Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team). The same gap between the top two riders in Superpole has happened only once before, when in 2009 Ben Spies snatched pole from Michel Fabrizio at Kyalami.
The 1:41.360 set by the British rider was also a new Best Lap for the Portuguese track.
“I am really happy to have five Tissot-Superpole wins on the bounce, it is a record for me,” Sykes said. “I was able to do my time on a dry and sunny track but Eugene Laverty almost beat me to it this time.
“I am looking forward to two races tomorrow and I am expecting them to be difficult. We took a circuit best lap and I was surprised at that because last year I put in a good lap in better conditions. I think it shows that Pirelli have made a good step with the tires.”
Added Laverty, “You can’t get any closer to the pole than that! In any case I’m happy to be on the front row. I made a small mistake on my fast lap and I thought I had compromised my performance. It’s a shame for that thousandth of a second, but in any case we’re ready for the races tomorrow and that the weather conditions will be good.”
Saturday’s Superpole was partly influenced by the weather, as drops of rain began to fall moments before the start of Superpole 2. As per the 2013 WSBK Sporting Regulations, a final 20-minute wet session took place with all 12 riders involved. The conditions quickly improved, though, meaning the riders could fight for top positions on the grid on a dry track.
Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) completes the first row of the grid for Sunday’s two races, continuing to impress after the excellent performance in qualifying.
Fourth place Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Goldbet) finished ahead of Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team), Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) and an improving Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare), who was able to put up a good lap onboard his 1199 Panigale R despite his left shoulder injury.
Frenchman Jules Cluzel (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) was eighth at the flag followed by the Italian trio of Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma Aprilia), Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) and Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Ducati). The 2011 STK1000 Champion had a minor crash at turn eight during the last Superpole session.
Yakhnich Motorsport Yamaha’s Sam Lowes kept his 2013 World Supersport pole position streak alive by securing the top spot on the grid – for the fourth time in a row – after Saturday’s Qualifying 2. The current Championship leader set a successful lap-time of 1:44.804 using race tires and was the only rider able to lap below the 1:45 bracket.
Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) will start Sunday’s race from second place, followed by Sheridan Morais (PTR Honda), team mate Fabien Foret and Andrea Antonelli (Team Goeleven Kawasaki).
An early crash at turn 14 did not allow Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad GoldBet) to improve his lap-time set Friday in Qualifying 1, but didn’t prevent the defending STK1000 Champion from scoring his third Superstock 1000 pole position of the season.
Monza race winner Lorenzo Savadori (Team Pedercini Kawasaki) finished second with a 0.071 seconds gap from Sunday’s pole-sitter.
Franco Morbidelli (San Carlo Team Italia Kawasaki) won a spectacular and unpredictable Superstock 600 race at Portimao, following a close four-way battle for the victory in the closing stages. The maiden STK600 victory for the 19-year-old Italian was a pure example of perfect race craft, especially on the last lap, as he fought side by side with Tony Covena (Nito Racing Kawasaki) for the lead until the Dutchman went wide at turn 13, allowing Bastien Chesaux (EAB Ten Kate Junior Honda) and Gauthier Duwelz (MTM-MVR Racing Yamaha) to get through.
While Morbidelli managed to defend his small margin to cross the line as race winner, Duwelz was able to make a last second pass over Chesaux on the finish straight for second.
1.Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:41.360 (163.094km/h)
2. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) 1:41.361
3. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:41.787
4. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1:42.115
5. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1:42.209
6. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) 1:42.328
7. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1 :42.405
8. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) 1:42.645
9. Michel Fabrizio (Aprilia) 1:43.032
10. Ayrton Badovini (Ducati)
11. Davide Giugliano (Aprilia)
12. Chaz Davies (BMW)
13. Leon Camier (Suzuki)
14. Leon Haslam (Honda)
15. Max Neukirchner (Ducati)