Ben Spies (Yamaha) set the quickest time on the opening day of qualifying action at the Losail circuit in Qatar. The three-times AMA Superbike champion – and race 2 winner at Phillip Island – dominated qualifying, ending the one-hour session with a time of 1 minute 58.886 seconds, eight-tenths of a second off the best time set by Troy Corser (Yamaha) last year.
“Today went pretty good, the result will be more important Saturday but every time I come to the track with Yamaha the bike is getting better and it’s already such a fun bike to ride” declared Spies. “The team’s working really good, but there are so many people that are fast out there that if you have just an OK session you end up behind. It’s going to be a tough year, but we’re clicking off session by session and we’ll see where we’re going to end up.”
Spies, the only rider to lap below the 1’59” mark, was close to a second quicker than almost all his rivals, with the exception of Jonathan Rea (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda), three-tenths behind. The young rider from Northern Ireland was the spearhead in the competitive three-rider Ten Kate Honda attack, with Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari placing third and fifth respectively. The latter two were separated by Max Biaggi,who took his Aprilia RSV4 to a provisional front-row grid slot thanks to a quick lap at the end of the session.
In sixth place was the first Ducati, the Sterilgarda machine of Shane Byrne, while the factory 1098R machines are so far down in eighth (Michel Fabrizio) and eleventh (Noriyuki Haga) respectively. Last year’s winner Suzuki are so far struggling, with Max Neukirchner only down in thirteenth place, and Yukio Kagayama fifteenth, approximately 1.5 seconds off the pace. The two BMWs of Troy Corser and Ruben Xaus were right behind the Japanese rider in sixteenth and seventeenth.
1. Spies B. (USA) Yamaha YZF R1 1’58.886
2. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1’59.177
3. Checa C. (ESP) Honda CBR1000RR 1’59.731
4. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 1’59.826
5. Kiyonari R. (JPN) Honda CBR1000RR 1’59.937
6. Byrne S. (GBR) Ducati 1098R 1’59.980
7. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 2’00.024
8. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 2’00.101
9. Laconi R. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 2’00.232
10. Nakano S. (JPN) Aprilia RSV4 2’00.238
11. Haga N. (JPN) Ducati 1098R 2’00.254
12. Sykes T. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R1 2’00.283
13. Neukirchner M. (GER) Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 2’00.345
14. Rolfo R. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 2’00.374
15. Kagayama Y. (JPN) Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 2’00.398
16. Corser T. (AUS) BMW S1000 RR 2’00.455
Losail Rider Quotes:
Ben Spies, Yamaha World Superbike Team
“The track has been great for my first day here and the team have been working great as always, we’re continuing to make the bike better and better, hopefully we can get even faster for the race! We can’t forget there are many fast guys out here and I’m sure they’re doing their homework too.”
Michel Fabrizio, Ducati Xerox Team
“It feels like we lost his morning’s session as we completed very few laps so have had to make up for that this afternoon during qualifying, and haven’t had time to make the progress we hoped for. If we had gone straight out this morning without problems we would surely have done better than we did this afternoon. I have had some problems with grip and we need to see which tyres can last race distance but all in all, I’m reasonably confident for now and we know what we need to try tomorrow in second qualifying.”
Noriyuki Haga, Ducati Xerox Team
“Today was a strange day for me. We tried a different rear suspension setting to that used in Australia but the grip did not improve as we expected it to. Anyway the feeling I have with the 1198 is good and tomorrow we really just need to resolve the fact that I’m lacking rear grip. I will speak with my technicians again to decide how we will proceed tomorrow, we need to find a new way forward. There were some fast times recorded today so I need to pick up my pace tomorrow.”
Tom Sykes, Yamaha World Superbike Team
“I took it a little bit steady today, we’ve been working hard and trying race tires in preparation for Saturday. All in all were reasonably happy and it’s left us a lot of tires to play with. Straight away I was in the top three in the session, I know I can run fairly consistently with the top guys, so tomorrow we’re going to make some small changes to the bike and improve the set up. Australia didn’t really happen in qualifying for me which made it harder in the race so I’m looking for a better grid position for Saturday.”
Max Neukirchner, Suzuki Alstare Team
“This afternoon I had a big problem with lack of rear grip. The front felt stable but the back was not and I just couldn’t push any harder. We had made some changes in the bike’s balance from the morning and the track temperature was up a bit, but the way the bike worked was very different. I think we went in the wrong direction in the afternoon, but the good news is that we know what we did and we can go back to the set-up that worked in the morning without a problem. It’s disappointing to be 13th but at least we know how to fix the problem and that’s what we’ll do tomorrow.”
Yukio Kagayama, Suzuki Alstare Team
“The morning was not so bad and although we didn’t change much on the bike – just the ride height – the bike didn’t work so well in the afternoon. I don’t think the change in track temperature was a problem, but whatever the reason, I had much less rear grip in the afternoon. So we will look at the telemetry, analyse the data and see what we must do to make the bike better tomorrow morning. My general feeling is that we will improve quite a bit, but tomorrow we’ll know for sure.”
Troy Corser, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Team
I’m really not sure what was going on today, and this afternoon especially, because my bike just didn’t seem to have the top end grunt it should have had.
After qualifying, we looked at the top speeds of all the bikes and my bike was quite a bit down compared to most of the others, so I guess there was some kind of a problem. The engineers have a lot of data and telemetry to work with and I’m sure that they will find out what was going on and how we can get the bike working better.
I just used one bike today because we wanted to understand what was going on at this track and keep pushing forward with all the info. Maybe that was right and maybe that was wrong, but as we have no info here for our bike, we know that we just have to plug away and get as much work done as possible and it seemed sensible to do it with just one bike. Maybe that’ll change for tomorrow, we shall see.