Alex Lowes has begun the record 25th world superbike round at Phillip Island with some real spark, piloting his Suzuki to the fastest qualifying time on day one ahead of new Aprilia signing Jordi Torres and Kawasaki gun Tom Sykes.
Lowes’ set his best lap of 1min30.855secs in this morning’s opening qualifying sessionof the Swann round, and it could not be bettered this afternoon as just a handful of riders managed to go faster on the 4.45km grand prix circuit.
Overall, just one second separated the top nine riders, with Lowes 0.359 seconds ahead of Torres (1:31.214) and holding a 0.548-second cushion over Sykes (1:31.403).
Despite his productive day, Lowes has signalled that he still has some work to do.
“The timesheets don’t tell the full story, we still have a lot of work to do in the heat,”
“We were fast this morning on the cold track but we’re always fast in the cold.
“In the hot conditions we have work to do, we tried something this afternoon, we maybe weren’t on the right tyre for the conditions and we still did a decent job so we just need to continue working as we are. We have a lot of work to do but we have started well and I’m happy enough, we’ll keep working hard tomorrow and see what that brings.”
Aussie wildcard Troy Bayliss, back in world superbike competition for the first time since November 2008, was one rider to show improvement after he only managed three laps this morning when his Ducati Panigale R suffered mechanical gremlins.
He managed 16 laps in the afternoon session interspersed between frequent pit stops, dropping his best lap to 1:33.490 – good enough for 18th overall.
“We lost almost the whole session this morning due to a technical issue which was a pity, but then this afternoon we were able to make some progress and I really started to feel good on the bike, I’m not feeling very confident with the back of the bike right now, in maximum lean, as there’s some sliding there, but I’m sure we’ll be able to sort that out tomorrow.
“I can say that we’re definitely making progress. There’s a lot we still need to do tomorrow of course, but we’re taking baby steps and we’re getting there. The important thing is that I’m really enjoying riding the bike and overall I’m very happy for the short Friday I’ve had.”
Bayliss, world champion in 2001, 2006 and 2008, has six wins to his credit at Phillip Island, second only to the ‘other’ Troy – Corser, both masters of their craft around the fast and flowing circuit.
Corser, who retired at the end of end of 2011 with two world titles, is at Phillip Island this weekend to celebrate 25 years of world superbike racing at Phillip Island. Tonight the gates will be thrown open at the circuit for a series of free festivities, culminating in a fireworks display on Gardner Straight.
Fans will get the chance to meet world superbike legends from the past 25 years, including Peter Goddard and Robbie Phillis — the winners of the very first round in 1990 — as well as Bayliss, Corser, Chris Vermeulen, Kevin Magee, Karl Muggeridge and Andrew Pitt. There will also be stunt bike displays and kids’ activities.
Meanwhile, Matt Walters (Kawasaki, 1:33.091) was the best Australian today in 16th, but he crashed at turn nine in session two. He was unhurt, but his ZX-10R cartwheeled through the outfield and will require some remedial attention ahead of the third qualifying session at 9:45am tomorrow.
Others to crash at high-speed were Niccolo Canepa (EBR) and Frenchman Sylvain Barrier (BMW), while Leon Haslam tipped off at low-speed from his Aprilia.
Haslam (1:31.466) was fourth fastest today, from Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki, 1:31.541), Nicolas Terol (Ducati, 1:31.614), Michael van der Mark (Honda, 1:31.693) and Ducati’s Chaz Davies (1:31.748). Van der Mark, another class rookie, made up five spots this afternoon as he continues to feel more at home on his CBR1000RR after shifting up from world supersport.
Melbourne’s Jed Matcher (Kawasaki, 1:33.814) was 19th fastest.
The final battle for grid positions will take place in ‘Superpole’ at 3:00pm tomorrow, fought out between the fastest 20 riders after regulation qualifying. The world superbike field will face two 22-lap races on Sunday at noon and 2:40pm.
In world supersport, 26-year-old Frenchman Jukes Cluzel (MV Agusta) edged out Kawasaki’s Kenan Sofuoglu by a scant 0.021 seconds, with the pair followed by Honda riders Gino Rea and Kyle Smith.
Lucas Mahias was fifth on his Kawasaki, with Aiden Wagner (Yamaha) the leading Australian in ninth position.
Glenn Scott (Honda) was 18th fastest, Alex Phillis (Honda) 20th and Sam Lambert (Triumph) 24th.
World supersport qualifying is at 3:55pm tomorrow.
WorldSBK Qualifying – Friday
1 22 A. LOWES GBR VOLTCOM Crescent Suzuki 1’30.855
2 81 J. TORRES ESP Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils Aprilia RSV4 RF 1’31.214
3 66 T. SYKES GBR Kawasaki Racing Team Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’31.403
4 91 L. HASLAM GBR Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils Aprilia RSV4 RF 1’31.466
5 65 J. REA GBR Kawasaki Racing Team Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’31.541
6 18 N. TEROL ESP Althea Racing Ducati Panigale R 1’31.614
7 60 M.VD MARK NED PATA Honda World Superbike Team Honda CBR1000RR SP 1’31.693
8 7 C. DAVIES GBR Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team Ducati Panigale R 1’31.748
9 44 D. SALOM ESP Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’31.855
10 14 R. DE PUNIET FRA VOLTCOM Crescent Suzuki Suzuki GSX-R1000 1’31.881
16 12 M.WALTERS AUS Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’33.091
18 21 T. BAYLISS AUS Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team Ducati Panigale R 1’33.490
19 77 J. METCHER AUS Race Center – Demolition Plus Kawasaki ZX-10R 1’33.814
WSS Qualifying – Friday
1 16 J. CLUZEL FRA MV Agusta Reparto Corse MV Agusta F3 675 1’33.305
2 54 K. SOFUOGLU TUR Kawasaki Puccetti Racing Kawasaki ZX-6R 1’33.326
3 4 G. REA GBR CIA Landlords Insurance Honda Honda CBR600RR 1’33.729
9 41 A. WAGNER AUS Oz Wildcard Racing Yamaha YZF R6 1’34.387
20 20 A. PHILLIS AUS Team Lorini Honda CBR600RR 1’35.929
24 17 S. LAMBERT AUS Sam Lambert Racing Triumph Daytona 675 1’38.299