World Superbikes Blog: Two Qualifiers into Three Superpoles Doesn’t Work

Published: 06 April 2009

It’s amazing how often humans decide not to do the obvious thing. Like choosing to have three segments for Superpole qualifying in the World Superbike championship, but allowing teams to have only two rear qualifying tyres.

The numbers don’t match up – but that’s deliberate on the part of the organisers, Infront Motor Sports. The fastest 20 riders in qualifying compete in the first 12-minute Superpole slot, the quickest 16 survivors go through to the second sector, and the fastest eight battle it out in the final 12-minute match.

The idea is that forcing teams to juggle between race tyres and the two qualifiers as they try to progress through the ordeal introduces entertainment for spectators.
But it doesn’t. It is, however, robbing them of some potentially great races on the Sunday. What happens is that teams try to get through Superpole 1 using only race tyres, so that they can retain the quallies for the later sectors.

But if they misjudge and their rider can’t break into the top 16, he’s relegated to the fifth row. If a team then tries to survive Superpole 2 still without fitting a qualifier, in order to preserve two sticky tyres for the ultimate 12 minutes, their riders could end up as far back as the fourth row.

Max Biaggi on the Aprilia RSV4 and Tom Sykes20on the factory Yamaha R1 both got caught out in this way in Saturday’s Superpole at Valencia. Troy Corser suffered on the BMW at Philip Island in the same way, and Max Neukirchner, Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam were victims in the second round at Qatar.

So here’s an idea: let teams have three qualifiers, and force them to use one in each Superpole segment. Or just ban qualifiers altogether. The World Supersport category exists happily without them. They’re just a historical legacy from a different era, and they only add complexity and cost in a time when we’re trying to simplify everything.

In particular, spectators are getting cheated of seeing some of the sport’s hottest riders competing at the front. Fans have no idea of which rider is using what tyre during the Superpole action.