Ben Spies: “It was tricky as the track was pretty windy so maybe we could have got a bit faster. It’s the first pole position for the new Yamaha and for me too. Now the focus is totally on having a good race package and good race pace, I think it’s going to be great racing tomorrow. The bike is incredible, I’m feeling really confident in its abilities, I can’t wait to race tomorrow!”
Yamaha World Superbike’s American rookie, Ben Spies, demonstrated the skills he honed as three-time AMA Superbike champion to the rest of the world today, winning the first Superpole of the 2009 World Superbike season at Phillip Island.
“For the first two qualifying sessions, we were taking it very steady, we only used one set of tires each session, looking to be consistent and doing some more laps. We turned up the heat in Superpole and found some more time and in the final lap we pulled the pin and went for it,” Spies said.
The American rookie finished an impressive 0.333-seconds ahead of Aprilia Racing’s Max Biaggi. The Italian rider demonstrated flashes of past glories on the Aprilia, moving up consistently in the first two Superpole rounds before blazing to second after switching to qualifying tires.
“It’s a big sensation for me to come back after so many years to Aprilia with this new project, the bike is good already. We still have to see which is the best way to go but for now qualifying was very good and exciting,” Biaggi said.
Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Jonathan Rea will join Spies and Biaggi on the front row of the grid, the British rider edging out Guandalini Ducati’s Jakub Smrz by 0.003-seconds. Smrz finished fourth-fastest as the Czech rider followed up yesterday’s strong qualifying run with a front row start for tomorrow’s race.
Max Biaggi got Aprilia Racing off to a great start, finishing second-fastest in today’s Superpole. Aprilia is returning to World Superbike after a seven-year hiatus.
Ducati Xerox’s Michel Fabrizio heads up the riders of the second row of the grid. He will be joined by Stiggy Racing Honda’s Leon Haslam, Hannspree Ten Kate’s Carlos Checa, and DFX Ducati’s Regis Laconi.
The new ‘knock-out formula,’ which starts with 20 riders for Superpole 1, drops to 16 for Superpole 2, and ends with the best eight vying for spots on the first two rows in the final round, saw many favorites get eliminated early. Troy Corser, Roberto Rolfo, and Ruben Xaus didn’t make it past the first race. Neither did the new BMW team. The second round saw Tom Sykes, Max Neukirchner, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Noriyuki Haga get the axe.
In the new Superpole formula, riders only get two setsof tires for the three 12-minute long races, so choosing which tire to run became a chess game.
World Superbike Phillip Island Superpole
1. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’31’069
2. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1’31.402
3. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1’31.596
4. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1’31.600
5. Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) 1’31.837
6. Leon Haslam (Honda) 1’32.112
7. Carlos Checa (Honda) 1’32.537
8. Regis Laconi (Ducati) 1’32.649
9. Shinya Nakano (Aprilia) 1’31.843
10. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Honda)1’31.860
11. Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki) 1’31.867
12. Tom Sykes (Yamaha) 1’31.881
13. Noriyuki Haga (Ducati) 1’31. 907
14. Max Neukirchner (Suzuki) 1’31.916
15. Shane Byrne (Ducati) 1’32.119