2012 Nürburgring WSBK: Saturday Qualifying Round Up
The Nürburgring in Germany is an iconic location. The famous 13-mile Nordschleife attached to the GP track is a mecca for motorsports fanatics wanting to test their bravery and car factories wanting to test their latest models. The GP-Strecke is the GP track that the Superbikes race at. It was completed in 1984 and is used for Formula 1, DTM, World Superbikes and others. It was built on the site of the old Sudschleife, the south ring to the Nordschleife's north ring, and connects to the larger track at the tight Coca Cola curve that leads on to the start/finish straight. The first corner is a bowl-shaped hairpin, a scene of many comings together in the past, and the rest of the track is comprised of many different corners and few straights, so don't expect high-gearing slipstreaming to feature here.
Last year, Tom Sykes took his maiden victory in the second race ahead of Sylvain Guintoli and the oddly-absent Jakub Smrz. The first race was won by Carlos Checa ahead of Marco Melandri and Noriyuki Haga. Going by qualifying today, another Sykes victory is perfectly feasible. His go-for-broke lap in the dying minutes may not have got him anything in terms of grid position, but it showed that he really wants results.
Max Biaggi is one of only four men to beat Sykes to pole position, and the first non-Ducati to do so. Tellingly, Biaggi did his fast lap on a qualifier tyre, while his race tyre performances have not been as stellar this weekend, so he, along with Marco Melandri, look unlikely to run away with the race. Biaggi's team mate Eugene Laverty has been on form most of the weekend, but will undoubtedly have to play the role of Biaggi's wingman, helping his team mate gather championship points.
In fifth place on the grid, Jonathan Rea is happy, but concerned with his possible tyre wear at the track. His pace on a race tyre was the fastest pre-superpole pace, which bodes well for the MotoGP and Superbike racer. The other racer competing in GPs as well as Superbikes is David Salom, but his Superpole ended in the gravel trap before his first lap was completed.
Carlos Checa in sixth is another man planning on playing a tyre management game, but at least he isn't hampered by along straight, like in Moscow. His team mate Davide Giugliano is back in 9th, on the third row.
Crescent Suzuki got both of their men in Superpole but John Hopkins was the slowest rider to complete a lap, which put him in 14th place. His team mate Leon Camier, on the other hand, got through to Superpole three and secured a seventh place, ahead of Loris Baz, who spent the first two Superpole sessions with his Kawasaki glued to the back of Max Biaggi's Aprilia.
The weather has been kind all weekend, with nobody even mentioning rain for once. We should get two unimpeded races from the big bikes, and it's impossible to predict what will happen.
In World Supersport, Jules Cluzel and Sam Lowes are the only two men with a realistic prospect of beating Kenan Sofuoglu in the championship, but with three races left and a 33 point lead, the Turk could put the lead out of reach for the two PTR men. All Sofuoglu needs is three solid finishes and he will get his third World Supersport championship, but he isn't the kind to settle for points when there's a possibility of a win on the table. The Honda riders either need to settle for a second place battle or work together to beat him.