2012 Silverstone WSBK Friday Round Up: Rain, Rumours and Results
One of the paddock's worst-kept secrets was the cancellation of the Portimao round at the end of the 2012 World Superbike championship. Luckily for fans of the Portugese circuit, the track was confirmed as definitely being on the calendar, as the financial penalties for its not being held were greater than the costs. This, however, wasn't the biggest rumour to hit the paddock as, fresh on the heels of Ben Spies being almost certain to join the BWM Motorrad Italia team next year alongside Marco Melandri, we were treated with hints that Valentino Rossi would possibly be joining the Superbike paddock on a Yamaha in 2015.
All these rumours aside, this was the backdrop against which the first day of World Superbike ran at Silverstone. Weather was either dry or wet, making settings hard to chase, and the free practice session started dry but was cut short by a splash of rain. The later qualifying practice was carried out on a drying track, which helped riders confident in their settings, but punished those still getting their bikes sorted.
Sylvain Guintoli on a different-coloured Ducati made his presence felt, posting fast times and provisionally qualifying ahead of all of his older team's riders, but one Effenbert Liberty rider wouldn't have cared as he has just returned after recovering from a broken neck. Brett McCormick was injured in a crash at Assen and the Canadian suffered a fracture to the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae, and to see him back racing is a relief.
If the rain falls before the Superbike qualifying, three big names will suffer the indignity of missing out on Superpole due to poor times caused by the weather. Max Biaggi, the championship leader, will undoubtedly relinquish more of his lead to Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes if he has to start from the fifth row of the grid, while Carlos Checa, who won both races here last year and looks on form, would also be able to claw some points back.
Jonathan Rea, fresh from his Suzuka Eight Hour victory, spent time readjusting to his more powerful Superbike and that, coupled with the weather and lack of data from last year, also potentially kept him out of Superpole. If it doesn't rain for Saturday's qualifying practice, he will have to find settings fast and make them count. A bad start for him would put his championship position at risk from Leon Haslam, whose father runs a race school at Silverstone, and the resurgent Eugene Laverty.
Leon Camier and Chaz Davies made a good showing in front of their home fans, but Chaz Davies told motomatters.com earlier that his wet weather pace isn't as good as he likes, having spent four years racing in the dry United States. If it rains, Davies will suffer.
In World Supersport, PTR continue their domination, with Sam Lowes and Jules Cluzel alternately topping the two sessions, and the pair were the riders that best managed the drying conditions at the end of the qualifying session. With Kenan Sofuoglu close to their times, it looks like these three will be fighting at the front again.
It's 2012, so of course the weather will play a large part in a race weekend, and we were told to expect thunderstorms at some point