Wet weather made for a reserved World Superbike
morning practice at Monza’s Autodromo Nazionale and delayed the start of the first qualifying session for over an hour. Conditions improved for the afternoon qualifying session, allowing BMW Motorrad GoldBet’s Marco Melandri
to post a lap one-tenth of a second faster than the current Lap Record, set in 2010 by Cal Crutchlow. Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea
ended with the second-fastest time followed by Aprilia Racing’s Sylvain Guintoli
close behind in third.
A number of riders jockeyed for position through qualifying, swapping positions at the head of the pack as the track dried. Melandri, Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, Althea Racing’s Davide Giugliano and Guintoli were the primary players in the shuffle, with Guintoli maintaining an extended stint at the top late in the session. Melandri put in his best effort less than ten minutes from the end, leaving Guintoli enough time to log three more laps, but none proved fast enough to reclaim the lead.
"Today I had such a good feeling on the bike which I haven't had for a long time, I am so happy," said Melandri. "In the team, we are doing such a great job and I think we now really understand what went wrong at the beginning of the season. We struggled with the front part of the bike. It was not absorbing the bumps and it was difficult to turn, now this is much better."
Rea never found his way to the top of the timesheet, but made his way into second with time enough for two additional laps, each one faster than the last. Rea’s teammate, Leon Haslam, remains out recovering from a broken leg and Kosuke Akiyoshi has been appointed to ride in his stead. Akiyoshi finished the day in 17th, having never ridden a Superbike-specific CBR or Pirelli tires previously. This is also the Japanese rider’s first trip to Monza. Rea and Akiyoshi teamed in 2012 to race, and ultimately win, the Suzuka 8 hour with Tadayuki Okada.
Melandri’s teammate, Chaz Davies, mixed it up as well, posting a top time mid-session but a few minutes after his effort he crashed in Turn 8 and was unable to return. Lap times dropped dramatically through the session for most, with many riders improving by six or more seconds, and Davies quickly slipped down the timesheet, ending the day in 13th.
Sykes held to fourth ahead of Giugliano. Red Devils Roma’s Michel Fabrizio came in sixth-fastest while Guintoli’s teammate, Eugene Laverty, finished in seventh. Sykes’ teammate, Loris Baz, nearly bested Laverty on his final run, but came up a fraction of a second short, finishing in eighth. FIXI Crescent Suzuki duo Leon Camier and Jules Cluzel took ninth and 10th respectively, followed by Team Ducati Alstare’s Carlos Checa in 11th.
"I must admit that my shoulder is giving me trouble," said Checa. "If it worsens tomorrow I’ll find it difficult to complete the races on Sunday. We’ll see how things go tomorrow – I’d like to try and make a string of consecutive laps and then, from there, we’ll see how I am physically and decide whether it’s worth trying to race or whether it’s better for me to concentrate on getting fit in time for Donington instead."
2013 World Superbike Monza Friday Qualifying:
1. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1’42.883
2. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1’43.157
3. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1’43.510
4. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1’43.521
5. Davide Giugliano (Aprilia) 1’43.623
6. Michel Fabrizio (Aprilia) 1’43.849
7. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) 1’43.956
8. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) 1’43.961
9. Leon Camier (Suzuki) 1’44.106
10. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) 1’44.466
11. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1’44.763
12. Ayrton Badovini (Ducati) 1’44.823
13. Chaz Davies (BMW) 1’44.992
14. Max Neukirchner (Ducati) 1’45.855
15. Federico Sandi (Kawasaki) 1’46. 336
16. Fabrizio Lai (Kawasaki) 1’47.192
17. Kosuke Akiyoshi (Honda) 1’47.201
18. Vittorio Iannuzzo (BMW) 1’47.509
19. Mark Aitchison (Ducati) 1’47.521