2012 Misano WSBK - A Friday Of Few Surprises
That Carlos Checa, double-winner here last year, would dominate the qualifying session was not a surprise, nor was the fact previous winners Jonathan Rea and Max Biaggi were up top as well. That Sam Lowes would lead a very familiar-looking provisional front row in World Supersports was also not a surprise, considering this year's form. For surprises in today's sessions, we have to look further back in the pack, like seeing Tom Sykes not being the fastest Kawasaki in either session.
High temperatures and threatening rain can't have helped, as riders would have been searching for the right tyre for tomorrow and, more crucially, Sunday.
Max Biaggi goes into this weekend leading the championship, clinging on to a title lead by perserverence and luck. Having won the opening race at Philip Island, he has led the championship (apart from a brief two-race demotion to second) without having won another race. Taking consistent scoring finishes every race, and podiums where possible, Biaggi could well win the championship by default. Throughout most race weekends this year, he has been invisible throughout qualifying and races, sneaking up to podiums unannounced and invisibly, snatching a handful of points here and there. This is how championships can be stolen.
Carlos Checa has won four races this year in typical Checa fashion, but has also regained his old trick of not finishing enough races. From leading the title race at Imola to fifth place at Misano, Checa needs to take a few leaves from Biaggi's book and start grinding out some points. From the current world champion and title favourite, this weekend should be another Checa double, but only if Carlos manages to lose the DNF spectre.
Marco Melandri was quickest in the morning session, but even he recognises the threat of previous winners Checa and Max Biaggi and stated that he will try to make their lives difficult come the race. His bike is good enough to win races and Marco can ride it well enough to.
Jonathan Rea has won here before. For him to be the only man close to Checa could threaten if he manages a front-row place tomorrow. Rea doesn't win races from the lights, preferring to preserve tyres early on and push through later, a tactic that can come unstuck through someone else's faults.
A man whose tactics is the opposite is Tom Sykes, who leads races until he wears his tyres out, falling back at the end. This is also the story of his qualifying today. Early promise, steamrollered by faster men. Sykes needs to find form tomorrow or his weekend, and title hopes are over.
Broc Parkes won the World Supersport race last year, but Sam Lowes has finally won a race. With Jules Cluzel and Kenan Sofuoglu also hungry for the podium, quaifying should end with those four men on the front row, in whatever order, but the race is anyone's guess.
Sunday will be very hot, while Saturday will have a few clouds. Whoever manages to get the best out of the harder tyre should be in with a shout.