2012 Portimao WSBK Friday Round Up: Penultimate Weekend
In what might be the last World Superbike weekend at Portimao for a few years, the World Supersport championship could be decided on Sunday, while the World Superbike title will likely be decided on the last race of the year, in a fortnight's time.
Max Biaggi, the championship leader after an unusual weekend in Germany last time out, only managed to chase settings in the afternoon session and ended seventh fastest, while his team mate Eugene Laverty snatched provisional second place in the last minute of qualifying. Unfortunately for the Italian, his fellow countryman Marco Melandri was fastest. The title is realistically between the two Italians and Tom Sykes, even if Carlos Checa and Jonathan Rea are in with a mathematical possibility.
Sykes qualified well and did so earlier than the others, progressively beating his own times until Melandri pulled out a fast lap with fifteen minutes remaining.
Jonathan Rea has a busy schedule right now, flitting between MotoGP and World Superbikes, and he knows that the title is off the table for him, especially on the aged Fireblade, but he's done enough loyal work to secure his future with Honda. A future in MotoGP was rumoured, but never taken seriously, but suddenly, with Casey Stoner's injury slamming Rea into the spotlight, he could well end up on a Gresini bike in MotoGP.
Is it too soon to talk about John Hopkins's terrible season in WSBK? With Leon Camier showing that the bike can no longer be blamed for poor performance, there must be question marks over the American's future. Hopkins showed in BSB that he wasn't scared of pushing for wins, but after his injury earlier in the year, he has struggled to even make Superpole, a shock considering he was on pole position on the same gear-rattling bike last year at Silverstone. This may be his first visit to Portimao, but he's still not as confident as we'd expect.
World Supersport qualifying was once again down to Sam Lowes and Jules Cluzel, the PTR pair trading top spots across the sessions. None of this will matter on Sunday as Kenan Sofuoglu only needs 12 points to wrap up his third World Supersport title. Sofuoglu isn't a rider that needs to qualify well as his stile is to charge through the pack, getting faster as the race progresses. If he finishes higher than fifth, the title is his, and it looks like there are only four riders capable of beating him.