2012 Brno WSBK Saturday Roundup
On a track with elevations that should suit the more horsey four-cylinders, the amount of time that bikes spend on their sides means that it also suits the thumpy twins. Cold weather coupled with splashes of rain meant that it was going to be an interesting and unusual day qualifying, but nobody predicted just how unusual.
The time sheets say that Tom Sykes, as is his way, broke another absolute lap record on his way to his seventh pole position of the year, passing the six poles in a season of both Cal Crutchlow and Carlos Checa and another step closer to Ben Spies's eleven poles of 2009. However, time sheets don't tell the whole story.
Davide Giugliano was once more the talk of the town today, but for more than one reason. In the second Superpole session, he took a stone to the radiator and expelled fluid all over his front wheel and the track, bringing four bikes, including his own, down, two of which were damaged beyond repair. The track cleaning meant that the Ducatis of Giugliano and Jakub Smrz were rebuilt in time for the delayed restart, but Ayrton Badovini's BMW and David Salom's Kawasaki were unfortunately too far gone. The delay was long enough that the ominous dark clouds made their way to the track, splashing the first few corners with light rain. When Superpole was restarted, it was as a wet session, meaning all the remaining ten riders with working bikes were unleashed to qualify for 20 minutes. This is the first time a dry Superpole has been switched to a wet one.
Considering Giugliano's bike was rebuilt, by both his and Checa's mechanics, while the track was being cleaned, fourth place was an ample demonstration of the speed he's shown all weekend.
Yesterday, the talk was about Liberty Racing CZ and the departure of Sylvain Guintoli. With rumours of Effenbert pulling hospitality support and talk about mechanics not being paid, Liberty CZ issued their own press release about how it was an unfortunate turn of events, but they changed tack shortly after and decided to blame the Frenchman, stating that their collaboration with Guintoli ended because their sponsor was paying them less due to poor results on the rider's part. They also mentioned that they would give space and continuity to "the younger riders" which presumably meant their pay-to-ride riders Maxime Berger, who didn't qualify for Superpole, and the still-injured Brett McCormick, as opposed to Jakub Smrz, the other salaried rider alongside Guintoli. This isn't the first unusual press release from Liberty, as those with good memories will remember the diatribe they released after Monza.
In the weeks leading up to this race, Eugene Laverty's team fixed an electronic issue that Laverty claims cost him time coming out of corners. His third place qualifying and strong showing all weekend backs up his claim. His team mate Max Biaggi, however, took a step back with a tyre choice that cost him a place in Superpole 2. He stated that he should have used a qualifying tyre but took a gamble on a race tyre instead. Starting from fourteenth place, it will be a challenge for Biaggi to challenge for the win, but as a rider who gets stronger towards the end of the race, he could still make a good showing as long as he doesn't get caught up in slower riders in the early part of the race.
Jonathan Rea also had something to celebrate as he got married in the time between races. Having missed out on racing at Brno last year, he was also quite satisfied with sixth place, taken on a race tyre.
BMW are consolidating their Superbike teams with Marco Melandri taking the only confirmed 2013 seat in the BMW Motorrad Italia squad, with factory support. There is much debate over who will get the second seat, especially with rumours of a BMW entry into MotoGP in 2014, but we would not be surprised to see Ayrton Badovini near the top of the list, considering his history with the team. Melandri was lucky to be in qualifying today as he launched his bike over the protective barrier in a high-speed crash this morning. After setting the pace in Superpole 1 on his first flying lap, he could only manage a second-row start, along with his team mate Leon Haslam, in the mutable conditions of Superpole 2. Michel Fabrizio put the third BMW in eighth place, placing three BMWs on the second row with Rea's Honda.
Carlos Checa has had to play second fiddle to his team mate this weekend, but he and his team played the role very professionally, even sparing technical support in the rebuilding of Giugliano's bike after the Superpole red flag. He was rewarded for this goodwill with a second place on the grid, the best anyone can expect this year with Sykes on the form he's on.
In Supersport, the conditions meant it was hard to predict what would happen, with the Kawasakis of Kenan Sofuoglu and Fabien Foret duelling, not literally this week, alongside the Hondas of Jules Cluzel, Broc Parkes and Sam Lowes. The podium will inevitably be filled by three of these five men, but if form is anything to go by, most likely not Parkes. Neither Sofuoglu nor Foret have mentioned their contretemps at Aragon, while Lowes and Cluzel's manager, Simon Buckmaster released a scathing release about Sofuoglu's behaviour, fanning flames that so far have not risen.
With the shadow of Aragon over Supersport and the eleven-time winner at Brno, Max Biaggi, back on the fourth row in Superbike, we should be in for a treat tomorrow, even with the threat of unpredictable weather conditions.