British racer Tom Sykes led much of the action through three SuperPole sessions at Imola, Italy eventually taking his works Kawasaki ZX-10R to pole position for tomorrow’s pair of Eni Superbike rounds. Fastest in pre-qualifying, Sykes put in a strong early effort and wasn’t seriously challenged.
“I think that we worked hard and deserved that,” said Sykes of his SuperPole success. “This is a new team, we’ve been doing a lot of testing, and I think all the hard work is beginning to show. I think we have a good chance of a strong result or two tomorrow, too.” Sykes also earned pole at the previous, opening Superbike World Championship round in Australia, although the special elimination SuperPole event was not held out “down under” out of respect to an Australian racer who died in support event action.
Sykes’ best lap was a tour at 1:46.748, making him the only rider to dive below the 1:47 mark during the final session. Second best belonged to the Team Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati 1098R of Sylvain Guintoli, at 1:47.221. Taking advantage of Pirelli soft option qualifying tires, both riders bettered the lap times that had set them at the front of the 24-rider field prior to SuperPole.
Reigning World Champ Carlos Checa had a strong afternoon for the Althea Ducati outfit, placing third overall after a late session push to record a lap at 1:47.423. Fourth quickest, and riding at the edge of traction on numerous occasions, was Leon Haslam on the fastest of the works BMW S1000 RR models on hand. The sideways Haslam set a lap at 1:47.458, edging fan favorite Max Biaggi on the works Aprilia RSV-4 back to fourth.
Haslam’s teammate, new BMW recruit Marco Melandri, shook off a crash in the previous session to net sixth quickest. Seventh best was the works Honda of Johnny Rea, lucky to survive a major tumble at the end of the session.
Rea ran off track through a dirt area, then regained the circuit to complete his lap. Unfortunately, Rea soon lost the rear end of his CBR1000RR exiting a fast right hander, and was ejected from the machine.
Rea’s high side crash had spectators gasping, and insiders commenting that they had not seen a flip that big in several years. Rea landed heavily on his feet, slid to a stop without hitting anything, and eventually was up and walking.
Canadian Superbike Champion Brett McCormick did not qualify for SuperPole, not a major surprise given his rookie status on the tour and his first ever appearance in both the SBK series and the Imola circuit. A member of the powerhouse Liberty Racing Team Effenbert effort, McCormick watched the sessions from inside his team garage, joined by his lead technician.