Voltcom Crescent Suzuki's Eugene Laverty showed early promise at Magny-Cours today claiming a provisional front-row position in the eni FIM Superbike World Championship’s opening free practice sessions.
Having finished the morning’s initial session fifth, the Irishman continued perfecting the Yoshimura-powered GSX-R's set-up with a consistently strong performance to finish with the day’s second best time of 1'38.138. Laverty is looking to emulate this progress throughout tomorrow to consolidate an advantageous qualifying position for Sunday’s races.
Reacquainting himself with the French track after a five-year absence, Alex Lowes took ninth in the times, with a 1’38.888, at the close of play having circulated in seventh in the earlier session. Initially testing a new engine braking system - developed since the last round at Jerez - the British rider returned to the original settings to enable his continued study of the Nevers circuit and is confident he can maintain his progression into Saturday's qualifying.
An unseasonal summer’s day greeted the fans at the Circuit du Nevers Magny-Cours for the opening track action, with the blue skies providing glorious 26°C temperatures by mid-afternoon. Ducati’s Davide Giugliano topped the times with a 1’37.866 while his satellite compatriot Niccolò Canepa took the early lead in the Evo class.
With Friday’s action complete at Magny-Cours, Voltcom Crescent Suzuki returns to the track at 09:45hrs local time (08:45BST) tomorrow for the last timed-for-qualifying free practice session ahead of Superpole at 15:00hrs local time (14:00BST).
“It’s been a very positive start to the weekend! I didn’t believe we would be as strong here actually so it’s always nice to surprise yourself. We tried two different types of tyres to try to understand which could be our race tyre, so we are working positively and once again we are focused on getting a good qualifying position, which would be nice.”
“Even though I’ve had one year’s previous experience here five or six years ago now, it was like learning a new track again today. This morning was really good, we had a couple of little set-up issues this afternoon but all-in-all it’s been a pretty good day! It’s nice to be back on the bike after four weeks; Eugene was fast so we know the GSX-R can be competitive, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Paul Denning - Team Manager:
“Unusually the weather has been perfect at Magny-Cours today which makes it a very nice circuit to be at. The layout of the track is not particularly flowing and we didn’t expect it to really suit the GSX-R but Eugene’s excellent lap times and consistency today have put an end to that theory. The bike has clearly got good potential here, as always the small details will make a big difference come race day and for Alex the most important thing now is time on the track. He has virtually no experience here and it’s a tricky place so his performance today, especially considering we had some electronic settings issues which didn’t make the job easy this afternoon, also looks really positive for the rest of the weekend.”
Magny-Cours – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Free Practice Combined Times: 1. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 1’37.866: 2. Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.272: 3. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +0.286: 4. Jonathan Rea (Honda) +0.291: 5. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) +0.585: 9. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki +1.022.