RAIN-LASHED MAGNY COURS OPENING DAY
Changing conditions throughout the first day of qualifying for Sunday's 13th-round World Superbike Championship race at Magny Cours in France disrupted proceedings so badly that nobody completed more than nine laps in the afternoon timed session.
Qualifying had started dry, but after 10 minutes, the first rain shower fell, causing the field to scurry back to their garages. The rain abated for a while, but it wasn't long before it started again and this time the showers were much heavier and hail also began to fall. The inclement conditions meant that no rider ventured out again and so the provisional grid was formed from the lap times set at the beginning of the session.
Team Suzuki Alstare riders Fonsi Nieto and Yukio Kagayama finished fourth and ninth quickest with Max Neukirchner 10th.
Noriyuki Haga topped the standings with Troy Bayliss second and Carlos Checa third.
Fonsi Nieto - 4th, 1:41.513:
"Conditions this morning in the free practice were half dry and half wet and that is never easy. In the afternoon I managed eight laps before the rain and after that it was not worth going out again because the track was very wet and slippery. I like this track though and I am hoping that it is dry and we have good conditions tomorrow and Sunday."
Yukio Kagayama - 9th, 1:41.892:
"The conditions were not very good today and so we were not able to do many laps and get a good set-up - either dry or wet. I only did eight laps this afternoon and then the rain came down and that was that. I hope the weather is better tomorrow and we can find a good set-up."
Max Neukirchner - 10th, 1:41.900:
"This morning was not really dry and so I didn't ride many laps. In the afternoon qualifying, it was dry at first and that's when we all set our best lap times. But the dry spell only lasted for a short while and I only managed seven laps before the rain fell and disrupted everything. The track was very slippery in the wet so I am hoping that it will be dry tomorrow."
Friday WSB Qualifying: 1 Haga (J-Yamaha) 1:41.012, 2 Bayliss (Aus-Ducati) 1:41.020, 3 Checa (E-Honda) 1:41.130, 4 Fonsi Nieto (E-Suzuki Alstare) 1:41.513, 5 Corser (Aus-Yamaha) 1:41.515, 6 Rolfo (I-Honda) 1:41.681, 7 Lanzi (I-Ducati) 1:41.783, 8 Xaus (E-Ducati) 1:41.885, 9 Yukio Kagayama (J-Suzuki Alstare) 1:41.892, 10 Max Neukirchner (D-Alstare Suzuki) 1:41.900.
Team Alstare Suzuki rider Xavi Simeon mastered the difficult conditions at Magny-Cours today and ended the day fastest of the 41-rider field.
His time of 1:54.552, was over a second ahead of his nearest rival Alessandro Polita (Ducati) with Brendan Roberts (Ducati) slotting into third quickest.
Xavi Simeon - 1st, 1:54.552:
"Today was quite difficult because the conditions were not good. The morning session was half wet and half dry and that always causes problems. Towards the end of qualifying, I was a bit worried that I would get passed by a few riders - like other times this season - so I decided to put in some fast laps and not give anybody a chance. It worked out pretty good and I stayed fastest. I think I have a good set-up for the wet, but we probably need more dry time if we want a good dry set-up. I don't feel any pressure at all and I'm just going to go out in these last two races and have as much fun as I can."
Friday Superstock 1000 Qualifying: 1 Xavi Simeon (B-Alstare Simeon) 1:54.552, 2 Polita (I-Ducati) 1:55.935, 3 Roberts (Aus-Ducati) 1:56.574, 4 Magnoni (I-Yamaha) 1:57.061, 5 Colossi (I-Ducati) 1:57.477, 6 Pirro (I-Yamaha) 1:57.759.
RES Software Hoegee Suzuki riders Barry Veneman and Didier Van Keymeulen had a productive first day in Magny-Cours and in the rain-interrupted session, Veneman managed third fastest time on the French circuit in the afternoon, while Van Keymeulen scored a provisional seventh place on the starting grid for the 12th round of the World Supersport Championship.
Because of the cold and damp conditions it was hard to get in much useful running. The RES Software Hoegee Suzuki team decided not to take any unnecessary risks and did just a few laps. In afternoon qualifying. Veneman started the session well but he had to pit because of the incoming weather. After a rain shower Veneman came out again and he rode his Suzuki GSX- R600K8 onto a provisional front-row start.
For Van Keymeulen, the first part of the qualifying session went well but after the short break the Belgian rider increased his pace. He went on to set the fourth fastest time although he eventually fell back a few places to a provisional seventh.
Marc Hoegee - Team owner, RES Software Hoegee Suzuki:
"The weather was very unpredictable today so this morning we just went out to see if everything worked properly; it didn't make sense to push too hard. We anticipated the conditions in the afternoon practice well. The track was dry but later on it started to rain a little and the lap times slowed. Then when we started again we were prepared for the conditions. Both riders did a fine job and that makes us optimistic for this weekend."
"The practice sessions were pretty tricky today. There were wet places on the track and that was risky, especially when you were not on the ideal line. It was hard for me to find the right rhythm and despite the good result I am not completely satisfied today. I hoped I would be able to have ridden more laps but with the changing conditions this was impossible. I tried to get the maximum out of practice but it was hard to give everything today. The mechanics prepared the bikes well back at the workshops, so all we now have to work on is the bike's set up."
Didier Van Keymeulen:
"This morning we waited to see how the weather would turn out but in the end we didn't do a lot of running which saved our tyres. In the afternoon I tried to set a good lap time as soon as possible because it seemed it was going to rain. When it did rain a little I went back to the pit box to wait for dry conditions. Then when I came back on the track I found a good rhythm immediately and I managed to set the seventh-fastest time. I have some things to change on the bike for tomorrow so I expect to make another step forward."