Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Eugene Laverty concluded the opening eni FIM Superbike World Championship action at the Losail International Circuit in fifth place yesterday, completing all three free practices under floodlit conditions.
Despite having not raced here for five years, Laverty looked comfortable aboard his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R, claiming fifth in the day’s opening session. As the evening continued - and the track cooled - Laverty took charge, finishing the second free practice fastest and more than half-a-second quicker than the lap-record with a 1’58.449. A difficult final session left the Suzuki rider unable to set a lap but his pace in the earlier practice was enough to qualify fifth overall.
Getting up-to-speed quickly for his inaugural session at the Qatar track, Alex Lowes was the first racer of the day to break the two-minute barrier, setting two consecutively-quick laps to head the times with a 1’59.974 and with just five minutes remaining. He ultimately ended the opening practice in third with two further qualifying sessions left to run and continued the hard work into the night. A mistake in the final session left him little margin to set a time. However, with less than three minutes to go, the British racer took his Suzuki GSX-R1000 to sixth position and safely through to tomorrow’s Superpole.
The action beginning as the sun went down, Davide Giugliano topped the times with a 1’57.876 on his Ducati as the Losail International Circuit entertained a sultry 29°C. Althea’s Niccolo Canepa led the EVO class as the track cooled and the clock struck midnight.
With all three timed-for qualifying free practice sessions completed this evening, Voltcom Crescent Suzuki returns to the track at 18:00hrs local time (15:00GMT) tomorrow for the last non-timed free practice session ahead of Superpole at 21:00hrs local time (18:00GMT).
“The Suzuki works really well around this circuit as we expected: It flows and with only really one tight-corner it’s built for the GSX-R. In the second practice, lap-times were coming really easily, we went fastest and then unfortunately in the final practice we had an electronics problem, didn’t get a single lap-in and we dropped down to fifth. Going by the second practice we are looking really strong so it would be nice to finish the year with a good Superpole for a change and try and get on that podium come Sunday.”
“I’m a bit upset to make a mistake and miss most of that last session. In the middle session we worked on the less-favourable tyre, did a lot of work and I felt really strong, even though I was only seventh. The first session was obviously great and in the last session we only got one lap in on what will be the race tyre and, although I obviously got a good lap in at the end, I think that could have been a really strong session, so I’m a little bit frustrated. On the other side, I’ve never been here before and it’s been a fantastic experience to race under the lights; I’m really happy and I’m enjoying it a lot. I said at Magny-Cours, obviously apart from the race day when it didn’t quite go right because of the weather, I’m enjoying riding my bike again and I’m really happy. I just want to say a special thanks to the lads; they worked really hard in that session to get me out with two-and-a-half minutes to go, so thanks to them and we’ll see what tomorrow brings!”
Paul Denning - Team Manager:
“It’s great to have the World Superbike Championship here in Qatar, the bikes look spectacular under the lights and for our team, the Suzuki GSX-R1000 and both riders seem to be enjoying the track so it’s all positive. FP1 and FP2 both went ultra-smoothly but the wheels fell off our evening somewhat in FP3 with Eugene not completing a lap due to an electronics issue and Alex - after he’d put a new set of tyres in the bike - unfortunately crashing on his first timed lap. For Eugene to finish fifth overall having missed all of FP3, and for Alex to have recovered to sixth with just one timed-lap on his repaired bike at the end of the session, would indicate that we’ve got very good potential here this weekend. “Both crews did a really good job this evening and Alex’s guys worked miracles to get his bike fixed in the time they had available. The crew deserve a good result this weekend so we’ll keep working hard tomorrow and see what we can achieve.”
Qatar – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Free Practice Combined Times: 1. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 1’57.876: 2. Jonathan Rea (Honda) +0.137: 3. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +0.290: 4. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) +0.420: 5. Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.573: 6. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +0.663.