Marco Melandri earned provisional pole postion at Aragon in Friday’s qualifying session just 0.365 ahead of Max Biaggi.
In near 100 degree heat and with tire dissolving track temperatures, BMW Motorrad Motorsports’ Marco Melandri earned provisional pole after Friday’s first World Superbike qualifying session at Aragon. Melandri came in ahead of current championship points leader Max Biaggi of Aprilia Racing in second and Kawasaki Racing’s Tom Sykes in third. Biaggi’s teammate Eugene Laverty came in fourth and Melandri’s teammate Leon Haslam rounded out the top five.
“Today it was very hot and we have never ridden in these conditions,” said Melandri. “We struggled with the consistency at the front of the bike. The lap times were really good, but after two laps the front tire had already become unstable so I think that it will be difficult for everybody, because on this track with long braking in a leaning position the front is under a lot of stress.”
Melandri improved his performance from Free Practice 1 by nearly one second, a rarity among the top ten qualifiers as all but Haslam and BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet’s Michel Fabrizio were unable to improve on times set during FP1. The Italian rider won in 2011 at Aragon in Race 1 and took second in Race 2 after battling against Biaggi out front in both contests.
Biaggi came up against trouble with less than ten minutes remaining when his bike slid out from underneath him, but luckily he and the bike were unharmed and he quickly remounted for more laps. Fabrizio’s teammate Ayrton Badovini, sixth fastest at the end of the session, crashed in the same turn as Biaggi and was likewise uninjured and able to rejoin.
“Maybe we’re not the absolute fastest out there,” observed Biaggi, “but we have a good pace. With these temperatures (about 140 degrees on the asphalt) the main problem is tire life, which deteriorates quickly and makes it difficult to be fast over a lot of laps. In any case the conditions are difficult.”
Fabrizio made the provisional second row with the seventh-fastest time and was followed by ParkinGO’s Chaz Davies in eighth. FIXI Cresecent Suzuki’s Leon Camier heads up the provisional third row in ninth and is joined by Althea Racing’s Carlos Checa in 10th.
Carlos Checa sits in 10th after Friday’s qualifying session, but on the bright side, he now has a turn named for him at Aragon.
Aragon is Checa’s home track and he enters the round fifth in overall points with four wins to his credit so far this season. The Ducati rider dealt with a host of issues during qualifying, from lack of grip to having a bee make its way inside his leathers and stinging him. A bit of good news came Checa’s way though as Motorland Aragon staff announced that Turn 3 of the circuit will now be known as the “Carlos Checa corner.” The 2011 World Superbike Champion was over two seconds off the Lap Record time he set last year.
“Today we had some difficulty and the times didn’t come,” Checa explained. “Losing so much on the straightway means that we need to make up as much as possible in the corners but this is difficult in these conditions where I didn’t have the necessary rear grip. It seems strange that we are losing so much to the others. I know we didn’t test here as many others have done but we have the same bike as last year and those references. Maybe today it’s hotter than last year or maybe the track has changed, I don’t know but I hope we can find something tomorrow.”
Checa’s teammate Davide Giugliano sits in 11th with American rider John Hopkins of FIXI Crescent Suzuki in 12th. Honda’s Jonathan Rea, currently second in points behind Biaggi, came in 14th after a technical issue limited his qualifying session to just eight laps.
“I was up to speed this afternoon, though, and was comfortable hovering inside the top ten when I felt something not quite right with the bike and came straight back to the box,” Rea said afterward. “The one-bike rule really hurt us today – just when I needed to be doing some laps. There was about half an hour of the session left, so I used the time to go and watch some of the other guys out on track.”
Max Biaggi is coming off a double win at Misano and is hoping to extend his points lead further at Aragon.
World Superbike Aragon Friday Results 2012:
1. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1’58.608
2. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1’58.973
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1’59.123
4. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) 1’59.263
5. Leon Haslam (BMW) 1’59.396
6. Ayrton Badovini (BMW) 1’59.751
7. Michel Fabrizio (BMW) 1’59.770
8. Chaz Davies (Aprilia) 2’00.146
9. Leon Camier (Suzuki) 2’00.147
10. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 2’00.401
11. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 2’00.514
12. John Hopkins (Suzuki) 2’00.570
13. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) 2’00.615
14. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 2’00.617
15. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 2’00.640
16. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) 2’00.690
17. Maxime Berger (Ducati) 2’01.151
18. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 2’01.827
19. Lorenzo Zanetti (Ducati) 2’01.965
20. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 2’02.032
21. David Salom (Kawasaki) 2’02.616
22. Leandro Mercado (Kawasaki) 2’02.630
23. Norino Brignola (BMW) 2’07.213
In Supersport action, Bogdanka PTR Honda’s Sam Lowes took provisional pole, followed by PTR Honda’s Jules Cluzel in second, Kawasaki Intermotot Step’s Fabien Foret in third and Ten Kate Racing’s Broc Parkes rounding out the front row. Kawasaki Lorenzini’s Sheridan Morais took fifth with Team Lorini’s Robertino Tamburini in sixth. Lowes has earned four of six poles so far this season and sits third in overall points.
“It was a really good day for us,” said Lowes. “The team has made quite a few changes from this morning to the afternoon and with the track being a lot hotter in the qualifying, everyone’s laptimes were a bit down, but I managed to match my time from this morning. I think this shows that we’ve made big progress with the bike and I think we’ll be alright this weekend.”
World Supersport Aragon Friday Results 2012:
1. Sam Lowes (Honda) 2’03.067
2. Jules Cluzel (Honda) 2’03.653
3. Fabien Foret (Kawasaki) 2’03.771
4. Broc Parkes (Honda) 2’03.955
5. Sheridan Morais (Kawasaki) 2’04.385
6. Roberto Tamburini (Honda) 2’04.411
7. Jed Metcher (Yamaha) 2’04.516
8. Joshua Day (Kawasaki) 2’04.838
9. Alex Baldolini (Triumph) 2’04.983
10. Gabor Talmacsi (Honda) 2’05.007
11. Mathew Scholtz (Honda) 2’05.038
12. Raffaele De Rosa (Honda) 2’05.116
13. Luca Marconi (Yamaha) 2’05.126
14. Ronan Quarmby (Honda) 2’05.146
15. Imre Toth (Honda) 2’05.254