2009 WSBK Qatar Superpole Results - Records Tumble

The second ever running of the new knockout Superpole in World Superbikes saw evidence that the teams had learned the importance that tactics would play in this new format. But it also showed that it was still possible to get it horribly wrong.

For the cutoff at the end of the first session saw some surprising names not make the cut, the biggest of which was Johnny Rea. The Ten Kate Honda man had been right on the pace all weekend, but misjudged what it would take to get through to the second session, and found himself just edged out by Troy Corser on the BMW S1000RR. Corser had had exactly the same thing happen to him at Phillip Island, and wasn't about to make the same mistake twice.

Rea was joined on the sidelines by two more big names: Both Leon Haslam and Max Neukirchner had been on the podium at Phillip Island, yet both the Briton and the German were unable to progress to the next session. Neukirchner has been complaining of a lack of rear grip here in Qatar, and clearly hadn't found a solution for Superpole. Tommy Hill was the last man to fail to make the cut, but as the Althea Honda man had had a big crash in the final free practice session.

Troy Corser may have made it through the first session, the Australian was not so lucky during the second session. He was eliminated along with BMW team mate Ruben Xaus, while the fortunes of the other new manufacturer on the grid were quite different. Max Biaggi led Superpole 2, getting well into the 1'57s to claim an - otherwise meaningless - fastest time of the session.

Ben Spies had clearly chosen to "sit out" the second session, doing just enough to ensure he would progress to the final showdown, after having been quickest in the first session. And Shane Byrne left it until very late in the second session to ensure his progression, using his last lap to secure a spot in the top 8, and a chance to battle for pole. At the fall of the flag, Roberto Rolfo, Michel Fabrizio, Regis Laconi, Ryuichi Kiyonari, Broc Parkes and Yukio Kagayama joined the BMWs of Xaus and Corser in failing to make the cut.

The final session was, as always, a great deal more straightforward. Gone were the tactics, the only thing that mattered was who had a qualifier left and who knew how to use it. At the end of the session, it was the increasingly impressive Ben Spies who took his second pole in a row with a lap of 1'57.280 - a time that would have put him ahead of 10 MotoGP riders at the tests run here under the floodlights last week. Spies just edged out the equally impressive Jakub Smrz on the Guandalini Ducati, who finshed 3/10ths ahead of Max Biaggi, the Aprilia continuing to impress, while Noriyuki Haga overcame the problems that have plagued him all week to grab the final spot on the front row.

Spies' team mate Tom Sykes finished an equally impressive 5th, proving that the brand new Yamaha YZF-R1 has plenty of potential. And Shinya Nakano's 6th spot on the grid reinforces the same for the Aprilia.  Carlos Checa was the only Honda to have made it through to the final qualifying session, and will start from 7th, ahead of Shane Byrne on the Sterilgarda Ducati. But Byrne's mind will mainly be concentrated on finishing, and getting some points on the board, after crashing out of the two races in Australia.

Once racing starts tomorrow, Spies is definitely looking like the man to beat, while Johnny Rea, who could have pushed Spies had he not been knocked out of Superpole early, will have to fight his way through the field to contend for a maiden win. Nori Haga, however, is likely to be travelling in the opposite direction. It is conceivable he managed to disguise a lack of grip with a sticky qualifying tire, which he certainly used to devastating effect. But he will need more than that on race day if he wants to retain his comfortable lead in the championship. At least his current rival for the lead, Max Neukirchner on the Alstare Suzuki, is unlikely to cause Haga much trouble, starting from the 5th row.

We find out for sure on Saturday, when the flag drops, and racing starts for real.

Grid after Superpole

Pos. No. Rider Country Bike Time
1 19 B. Spies USA Yamaha YZF R1 1'57.280
2 96 J. Smrz CZE Ducati 1098R 1'57.384
3 3 M. Biaggi ITA Aprilia RSV4 1'57.694
4 41 N. Haga JPN Ducati 1098R 1'57.850
5 66 T. Sykes GBR Yamaha YZF R1 1'57.878
6 56 S. Nakano JPN Aprilia RSV4 1'58.755
7 7 C. Checa ESP Honda CBR1000RR 1'59.090
8 67 S. Byrne GBR Ducati 1098R 2'00.021
9 44 R. Rolfo ITA Honda CBR1000RR 1'58.734
10 84 M. Fabrizio ITA Ducati 1098R 1'58.919
11 55 R. Laconi FRA Ducati 1098R 1'59.044
12 9 R. Kiyonari JPN Honda CBR1000RR 1'59.055
13 23 B. Parkes AUS Kawasaki ZX 10R 1'59.074
14 71 Y. Kagayama JPN Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1'59.134
15 111 R. Xaus ESP BMW S1000 RR 1'59.435
16 11 T. Corser AUS BMW S1000 RR 1'59.454
17 65 J. Rea GBR Honda CBR1000RR 1'59.713
18 91 L. Haslam GBR Honda CBR1000RR 1'59.882
19 76 M. Neukirchner GER Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 1'59.926
20 33 T. Hill GBR Honda CBR1000RR 2'00.108
21 31 K. Muggeridge AUS Suzuki GSX-R 1000 K9 2'00.738
22 100 M. Tamada JPN Kawasaki ZX 10R 2'00.839
23 25 D. Salom ESP Kawasaki ZX 10R 2'01.047
24 24 B. Roberts AUS Ducati 1098R 2'01.165
25 77 V. Iannuzzo ITA Honda CBR1000RR 2'01.560
26 86 A. Badovini ITA Kawasaki ZX 10R 2'01.561
27 99 L. Scassa ITA Kawasaki ZX 10R 2'01.607
28 15 M. Baiocco ITA Kawasaki ZX 10R 2'02.663


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Americans who follow the AMA will remember that Spies has typically been very good at qualifying (no data to back this up other than watching every race for the last 2 years). Of course a good qualifying doesn't always translate into a good race pace. While I'm a fan, I don't think Spies will dominate the series (although Mladin believes this to be true).

I honestly think that Haga will give Spies a run for the championship, if not dominate the championship this year (I'm also a fan of Haga's). I think that Haga's partnership with Ducati and the team's manager should be a very effective combination ... Haga's speed with Ducati's discipline. Furthermore, the field is so deep with talent, including a good many riders from the UK who will most certainly have their day in the sun. I also think that Spies' lack of track knowledge will catch up to him as the rest of the field continues developing their machinery.

I'm cheering for both Spies and Haga, but most of all I want a competitive series.

yamaha looks like they are the team to beat. although it's still early days, i wonder if noriyuki is thinking that he might have made a mistake in jumping ship after all those years on a tuning fork bike.

I find myself agreeing with Witham. They should stop using qualifiers. It's a better option than increasing the Qs to 3. But 2 Qs for 3 sessions is just daft.

I think today again underlines the fact that Dorna has a pretty huge problem on their hands this season. WSBK just needs to improve their times a tiny bit (eeuh, hello , Pirelli?) and most of the riders will be able to qualify for a MotoGP race.

And yes, I do feel the raison-d'etre of the MotoGP is linked to lap-times vs the needed investment.

Offtopic,I know.

Anyway, brilliant ride from Spies. Good to see a newcomer shake things up !

Some comments don't reflect facts. Testing in cold wet dark conditions doesn't tell the tale. I expect things to improve, but the fastest WSBK race at Qatar would be won about 1 minute after the checkered flag in MotoGP.

Qatar 2008 Qualifying Times:
Pos Rider Make Time
1. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1:53.927
2. James Toseland Yamaha 1:54.182 + 0.255
3. Colin Edwards Yamaha 1:54.499 + 0.572
4. Casey Stoner Ducati 1:54.733 + 0.806
5. Randy de Puniet Honda 1:54.818 + 0.891
6. Nicky Hayden Honda 1:54.880 + 0.953
7. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1:55.133 + 1.206
8. Daniel Pedrosa Honda 1:55.170 + 1.243
9. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1:55.185 + 1.258
10. John Hopkins Kawasaki 1:55.263 + 1.336
11. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 1:55.540 + 1.613
12. Alex de Angelis Honda 1:55.692 + 1.765
13. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1:56.070 + 2.143
14. Toni Elias Ducati 1:56.251 + 2.324
15. Shinya Nakano Honda 1:56.434 + 2.507
16. Marco Melandri Ducati 1:56.730 + 2.803
17. Sylvain Guintoli Ducati 1:57.198 + 3.271
18. Anthony West Kawasaki 1:57.445 + 3.518

I'm not sure if I can pick out a 2-3s a lap quicker time around a circuit. But given that Motogp bikes weigh around 20kg less, have (or at least had) custom built tyres and unlimited options for engine and chassis development and the riders are widely marketed as the best in the World, I'd expect more for my $50m a year than a couple of seconds a lap. Especially if the racing in my competitor series was closer and intense.

I don't believe that Dorna will be quaking in their boots. At least not until Rossi goes....

This years testing times from Qatar. Count out Casey ;-)

1. Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 1min 55.744 sek (31)
2. Jorge Lorenzo SPA Fiat Yamaha Team 1min 56.733 sek (82)
3. Valentino Rossi ITA Fiat Yamaha Team 1min 56.972 sek (75)
4. Chris Vermeulen AUS Team Suzuki 1min 57.224 sek (70)
@@ Ben Spies USA Yamaha WSB Team 1'57.280 sek @@
5. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Marlboro Team 1min 57.225 sek (53)
6. Loris Capirossi ITA Team Suzuki 1min 57.253 sek (42)
7. Randy de Puniet FRA LCR Honda MotoGP 1min 57.401 sek (77)
8. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Repsol Honda Team 1min 57.449 sek (74)
9. Colin Edwards USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1min 57.515 sek (46)
10. Alex de Angelis RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini 1min 57.591 sek (61)

Oh sure , MotoGP is still (a bit faster), but as Cejay noted , it is about the needed investment vs the lap-times. I reckon if you give the Superbike boys a little bit more (weight & tuning) freedom and some better tyres and they definitely be "in the zone" on some tracks.

In my view it will become hard to take the class that sees itself as (and behaves like) the Formula 1 of motorsport seriously when some teams on souped up roadbikes with sub 5 million EUR budget (most teams have _way_ less) can have a go at your worldclass rider on a one-off , very technical and complicated prototype.

Imagine that happening to Formula 1 ...

If you put MotoGP bikes and Superbikes on track at the same time, I think there would be no comparison.

The times put down by the MotoGP bikes are done *at night* when the track has significantly less traction. The latest round of MotoGP times were done on the Bridgestone control race tires, whereas the Superbike times are on the Pirelli control *qualifying* tires.

The law of diminishing returns tells us that it would take a HUGE amount of time and resources (money) for Superbikes to even come close to MotoGP bikes.