Ben Spies Claims Qatar Superpole

March 13, 2009
Ben Spies - Losail Superpole
Spies turned his qualifying momentum to the superpole, taking pole position.

After dominating the two WSBK qualifying sessions, Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) powered to the same result in Superpole with his second success in two races. The 24 year-old Texan lapped the 5.380 km Losail desert circuit in a time of 1 minute 57.280 seconds, almost eight-tenths of a second quicker than Troy Corser’s best mark from 2008. The starting-grid was similar to the opening round in Australia, but this time Jakub Smrz on a customer Guandalini Ducati 1098R placed second, a fraction of a second behind Spies, and ahead of Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing) in third. The front row of the grid was completed by Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox), who managed to move up to a fourth place slot following two below-par qualifying sessions.

With fifth place on the grid, Tom Sykes (Yamaha World Superbike) confirmed that the four-cylinder Japanese R1 machine is proving to be a very competitive machine indeed this year, and the British rider will start tomorrow’s two 18-lap races with Japan’s Shinya Nakano (Aprilia Racing), Spain’s Carlos Checa (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) and Shane Byrne (Sterilgarda Ducati) from the UK alongside.

The new Superpole format again produced a few surprises. The first run saw the elimination of two of the stars of Phillip Island, Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare) and Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), who will now start from row 5; while neither Ruben Xaus and Troy Corser (BMW) nor Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) made the final cut after the second knock-out session.

Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike): “The most important thing is being on the front row with this many fast guys. I almost ruined my lap but we eventually got the job done. Race pace is looking promising, which is important but I feel sure it’s going to be a hard race tomorrow. You still have to search for the speed and find the limit in Superpole, I don’t know anything different, it’s the only one I’ve done but it’s working well for me so far.”

Jakub Smrz (Guandalini Ducati): “We have made a really good weekend, now we still have the race to do, but we have a good set-up and for us the times are very positive. I was also working well in Superpole because there wasn’t much traffic, I didn’t catch anyone and I was able to do my best.”

Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing): “I’m very happy again to be fighting for the pole position, I think we did a very good job today. We tried to find the best set-up on both bikes, and I’m going to chose the one that feels the most comfortable. I have already made my tire choice and feel quite comfortable so thanks again to my squad, they are great guys.”
Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox): “It was a much better Superpole for me than in Australia and I am very happy to be on the front row of the grid. We had a little problem today but managed to sort that and now I am sure that tomorrow we will go very well in the races.”

Noriyuki Haga - Losail
After some poor times during qualifying,  Haga turns it around for Superpole.

Noriyuki Haga (Ducati Xerox): “I am very happy to be on the front row of the grid tomorrow, a big improvement on my grid position in Phillip Island! We have had some problems today and yesterday with the rear grip but we think that we have found a way forward for tomorrow’s races. Tomorrow will be tough, not just for me but for all of us, and so to be able start from the front row will of course be an advantage.”

Tom Sykes (Yamaha World Superbike Team): “To be honest I was reasonably happy with the qualifying, I certainly felt like I could have been on the front row but made a small mistake so dropped to the second. I’m happy on the race tires and I think both myself and Ben have a consistent race pace so if we can get away cleanly tomorrow I think it’ll show at the end of the race. Other than that I’m happier with where we’re starting compared to Phillip Island and really looking forward to getting off the line quickly and racing with the front pack tomorrow.”

Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox): “I unfortunately made a small error while making the fast lap in the second Superpole session. At the penultimate corner I was in the wrong gear, I should have been in second when I was instead in third and I know I lost a few tenths during that split as a result. Although I had time to make one further lap the tire was already gone. I had at least hoped to get into the top eight but it was that mistake that cost me a place further forward on the grid. Anyway I will do my best tomorrow, as always, and hope that is enough.”

Yukio Kagayama (Suzuki Alstare): “The situation is not so nice, having to start from the fourth row of the grid, but I am a racer and I will give my 100% – as usual. We changed many things on the bike from yesterday, but I don’t think there was much improvement, so we will have to make some more changes in the warm-up tomorrow. Today, I wanted the bike to steer better in the corners, but what we tried did not help much. Here in Qatar, the bike is completely different on race tyres compared to qualifying tyres and you can lap much faster on a qualifier. My Superpole lap does not reflect my potential so I am hoping the adjustments we make in the warm-up tomorrow will allow me to make a good fight in the races.”

Ruben Xaus (BMW Motorsports): “Of course, it is disappointing to be on the fourth row of the grid, but I’m happy because I have improved my lap times so much since my first session here. It’s not so easy developing a bike during the race weekend, but it’s just something that we have to get used to doing and trying to do it as well as we can. The more we push the bike towards its limit, the more we find out things and the more we have to work out how to improve those things. In the afternoon, I had a lot of chatter and couldn’t push any harder, but I know that my lap time on race tyres is quite good. It’s a shame that our first two races are so far from our workshops because I’m sure we could have solved some of the problems more quickly if we’d been able to do the work. But we cannot stop time, we just have to keep working hard. I know I am in the best team in the paddock and that gives me a lot of power. I want to be up the front – sooner rather than later -and I know it’s going to take some time, but I am confident that we are going to get there, before too long.”

Troy Corser (BMW Motorsports): “I’m not a fan of this new Superpole system and I think it must be quite hard for the fans to follow and understand. My lap in Superpole 1 would’ve put me on row three for sure and maybe row two, if luck had gone our way. In Superpole 1, I used a qualifying tyre for the first time this year and did a 1:58.950 quite easily. But for Superpole 2, that time gets wiped clean and you start all over again. We used the same tire on the same bike for Superpole 2, but suddenly the bike was chattering and that made it impossible to go any quicker. It’s a bit frustrating when that happens and now I know I have got a very hard job ahead. My bike is not so fast at the top end as most of my rivals, so it means that I am going to have to work harder in the turns trying to stay with them. This track has a long front straight and then a series of corners, so it is very easy to get held up and then not be able catch the front group. My plan is to get two good starts and see what happens in the race.”

Max Neukirchner (Suzuki Alstare): “It has been a hard day, with many problems in different areas. Also I had a big crash and that didn’t help. I was OK, but my bike wasn’t and I am sorry because my mechanics had to work so hard and build another bike. I had to use my number two bike in Superpole because my other bike wasn’t finished, and it didn’t work the same way. We lost some time making some adjustments and by the time we put on the qualifying tyre, the flag had come out and it was too late. I am disappointed how the day went, but I am hoping that tomorrow will be much better.”

Losail Circuit Superpole Results:

1. Spies B. (USA) Yamaha YZF R1 1’57.280
2. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 1’57.384
3. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 1’57.694
4. Haga N. (JPN) Ducati 1098R 1’57.850
5. Sykes T. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 1’57.878
6. Nakano S. (JPN) Aprilia RSV4 1’58.755
7. Checa C. (ESP) Honda CBR1000RR 1’59.090
8. Byrne S. (GBR) Ducati 1098R 2’00.021
9. Rolfo R. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 1’58.734
10. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1’58.919
11. Laconi R. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 1’59.044
12. Kiyonari R. (JPN) Honda CBR1000RR 1’59.055
13. Parkes B. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX 10R 1’59.074
14. Kagayama Y. (JPN) Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1’59.134
15. Xaus R. (ESP) BMW S1000 RR 1’59.435
16. Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 1’59.454
17. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1’59.713
18. Haslam L. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1’59.882
19. Neukirchner M. (GER) Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1’59.926
20. Hill T. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 2’00.108

Supersport World Championship

Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha World Supersport) was quickest again today in the second and final qualifying session for the World Supersport race, giving the Japanese manufacturer its first pole of the year and its second today at the Losail circuit. The 23 year-old British rider knocked one second off his Thursday mark to end up with a time of 2 minutes 01.586 seconds, almost four-tenths quicker than Fabien Foret’s best from last year. The other riders on the front row are all on Honda CBR600RR machines, with Ireland’s Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar) ahead of the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda champion pair of Kenan Sofuoglu and Andrew Pitt, the Turkish rider crashing out in the final stages of the session while chasing the pole. Fabien Foret heads the next row of the grid in fifth place on the second factory Yamaha R6, ahead of Matthieu Lagrive (Hannspree Honda Althea) and Gianluca Nannelli (ParkinGO Triumph).

Supersport Results:

1. Crutchlow C. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R6 2’01.586
2. Laverty E. (IRL) Honda CBR600RR 2’01.629
3. Sofuoglu K. (TUR) Honda CBR600RR 2’01.810
4. Pitt A. (AUS) Honda CBR600RR 2’02.266
5. Foret F. (FRA) Yamaha YZF R6 2’02.282
6. Lagrive M. (FRA) Honda CBR600RR 2’02.450
7. Nannelli G. (ITA) Triumph Daytona 675 2’02.497
8. Harms R. (DEN) Honda CBR600RR 2’02.592

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