Sylvain Guintoli will start the first round of the 2014 World Superbike campaign from pole position after a blisteringly fast lap of Phillip Island from the Aprilia rider during the first new-look WSB qualifying session.
Guintoli set a lap only 0.038 away from breaking the 1:30 barrier two thirds of the way through the new 15-minute second qualifying session to take the prime spot ahead of the surprise package of Davide Guigliano and the Ducati 1199, less than 0.1 back.
The second factory Aprilia of Marco Melandri was in third, with Eugene Laverty on the Voltcom Crescent Suzuki taking the first spot on the all-British second row, sharing the row with teammate Alex Lowes and Pata Honda rider Jonathan Rea. British Superbike Champion Lowes has been at the sharp end all weekend, but a big crash in FP3 has left the 22 year old battered and bruised.
The factory Kawasaki pair of Loris Baz and Tom Sykes was seventh and eighth, with Sykes losing out on his fast lap after an uncharacteristic crash at Lukey Heights left the reigning champion in the gravel trap.
Leon Haslam was ninth, one of the two riders to move forwards from the Q1 session, ahead of Niccolò Canepa, the second rider to progress and the first of the new Evo spec machines.
Chaz Davies was back in eleventh, with a huge moment on the Welshman’s fast lap costing him any chance to finish higher and leaving him lucky to stay on the machine, while David Salom on the Kawasaki Racing Evo machine rounded out the top 12.
Sylvain Guintoli, who broke his shoulder crashing off his bicycle while training voer the winter break, said afterwards: “More than anything, I feel good. It’s nice to be back in shape after this winter. I feel good on the bike, with a lot of strength, so we’ll see how my shoulder stands up. It’s a shame to be so close to the first 1:29 lap of Phillip Island, but I feel good on the bike and I’m looking forwards to tomorrow.”
1 50 S. GUINTOLI FRA Aprilia Racing Team Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'30.038
2 34 D. GIUGLIANO ITA Ducati Superbike Team Ducati 1199 Panigale R 1'30.135 0.097
3 33 M. MELANDRI ITA Aprilia Racing Team Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'30.332 0.294
4 58 E. LAVERTY IRL Voltcom Crescent Suzuki Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'30.385 0.347
5 22 A. LOWES GBR Voltcom Crescent Suzuki Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'30.421 0.383
6 65 J. REA GBR PATA Honda World Superbike Honda CBR1000RR 1'30.660 0.622
7 76 L. BAZ FRA Kawasaki Racing Team Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'30.796 0.758 0.136
8 1 T. SYKES GBR Kawasaki Racing Team Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'30.835 0.797
9 91 L. HASLAM GBR PATA Honda World Superbike Honda CBR1000RR 1'31.138 1.100
10 59 N. CANEPA ITA Althea Racing Ducati 1199 Panigale R EVO 1'31.274 1.236
11 7 C. DAVIES GBR Ducati Superbike Team Ducati 1199 Panigale R 1'31.281 1.243
12 44 D. SALOM ESP Kawasaki Racing Team Kawasaki ZX-10R EVO 1'31.950 1.912