Czech rider Jakub Smrz powered his Liberty Racing Ducati to provisional pole position for the sixth round of the World Superbike Championship at Miller Motorsports Park in America. The 29 year old was the pace setter in the opening wet free practice session and then confirmed his pace in the afternoons dry qualifying session to maintain his position at the top of the standings.
Race favourite Carlos Checa once again demonstrated his affinity with the American track to post the second fastest time onboard his Althea Ducati. Like many of the riders he complained about the strong winds that battered the circuit, but remained happy with his day one performance.
He said: ““In the morning we worked to refine the bike instead of pushing to make fast times on the wet. To be honest the wind was more annoying than the rain and so we hope that the wind levels drop a little tomorrow. I think we should be able to make two good races, we have a good reference from recent years of course and I think that we need to make the most of that, to grow and take a satisfying result. Tomorrow we’ll continue with the work but I can say that I’m feeling really good.”
BMW man Marco Melandri bounced back from the controversy of the Donington Park race two weeks ago in style by setting the third fastest time onboard his S1000RR. The 28 year old Italian was less than 2/10th behind pole man Smrz staking his claim for a front row start.
Melandri said: “My bike worked consistently well under different conditions. Finding a good line was really tough in today’s qualifying as the wind was really gusty and coming from different directions every single lap. In the morning it was raining very hard but I am happy with our performance today. After Assen it was important for me to understand how the bike works in the wet, and we now know why we were not fast in the wet there.”
The provisional front row was completed by Italian Max Biaggi who will be looking to back up his strong results at the American track and consolidate his lead of the championship.
Checa’s impressive team-mate Davide Giugliano secured fifth ahead of Frenchman Sylvan Guintoli making in four Ducati’s in the top six.
Seventh spot went to Jonathan Rea who was satisfied with his performance and set-up direction of his Honda Superbike. Miller has been the team’s bogey track in recent years making his day one performance a positive one.
Rea said: “It’s quite a strange circuit because you have to flow round here and be smooth, and I was being a little bit too smooth. We went with the harder tyre to start with but it was clear from everyone else that the softer tyre was bringing a better time. When we put that in it brought the lap time, but the important thing is that we’ve got a clear direction to go with the bike. We’re struggling a bit to finish the corner and it’s not steering the best. There are a lot of changes of direction here and were having issues in those areas. But it’s good when all the comments add up to one clear direction. No doubt the pace will hot up tomorrow and hopefully we can go with it.”
Eugene Laverty finished day one in eighth place onboard his factory Aprilia ahead of Kawasaki man Tom Sykes who suffered a crash in the session. Leon Camier rounded out the top ten onboard his Fixi Crescent Suzuki, ending the day just 0.678s off pole.
Camier said: “Generally, I feel good about how the day went because I know that there's a lot more to come from me and the bike. On my fastest lap of the day, I made a mistake, so there’s definitely room for improvement tomorrow. The wind was very strong this afternoon and it affected the bike a lot - especially going into turns one and two. If the wind drops or changes direction tomorrow, I’ll have to completely change my braking markers, but whatever happens I hope that it will stay dry. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, because we’ve got a new spec Yoshimura engine and I’m sure that it will be a step up.”
Chaz Davies made a solid start to his weekend ending the day in 11th place onboard his ParkinGO Aprilia RSV4 finishing ahead of factory fellow Brit Leon Haslam. The BMW man endured one of his toughest race weekends of the season last year at Miller and faced similar issues again this year.
He said: “We have issues with the engine brake, and we need to work on our electronics side to resolve this. Set-up wise I am riding the same as at Donington. Maybe it is the altitude here at Miller that makes the bike change the way it is working. I am confident that my crew and I will solve it.”
Miller - FIM Superbike World Championship - Qualifying 1
1. Jakub Smrz (Liberty Racing Team Effenbert) Ducati 1098R 1'49.842
2. Carlos Checa (Althea Racing) Ducati 1098R 1'49.912
3. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) BMW S1000 RR 1'50.038
4. Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'50.091
5. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Ducati 1098R 1'50.280
6. Sylvain Guintoli (Team Effenbert Liberty Racing) Ducati 1098R 1'50.312
7. Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) Honda CBR1000RR 1'50.358
8. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'50.428
9. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'50.433
10. Leon Camier (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'50.520
11. Chaz Davies (ParkinGO MTC Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'50.561
12. Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) BMW S1000 RR 1'50.730
13. Michel Fabrizio (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet) BMW S1000 RR 1'50.877
14. Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet) BMW S1000 RR 1'51.042
15. David Salom (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'51.055
16. Maxime Berger (Team Effenbert Liberty Racing) Ducati 1098R 1'51.070
17. John Hopkins (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'51.512
18. Niccolò Canepa (Red Devils Roma) Ducati 1098R 1'51.590
19. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'52.002
20. Jake Holden (Grillini Progea Superbike Team) BMW S1000 RR 1'52.108
21. Leandro Mercado (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'52.288
22. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda World Superbike Team) Honda CBR1000RR 1'52.390
23. Lorenzo Zanetti (PATA Racing Team) Ducati 1098R 1'52.953
24. Shane Turpin (Boulder Motor Sports) Ducati 1098R 1'54.994