2009 WSBK Valencia Superpole - Pole Man Takes It By Nearly Three Quarters Of A Second

Only 19 riders started the Superpole session at Valencia, Shinya Nakano having qualified for the session, but unable to participate after breaking his collarbone. During the first 12 minute session, tactics were mixed, with some riders choosing to use one of their two qualifiers, to ensure they got another shot at a decent grid position. For Ruben Xaus that didn't work out well, crashing out on a fast lap before he had the chance to set a time good enough to qualify.

But Xaus wasn't the only big name to be dropped at the first time of asking: both Aprilia's Max Biaggi and Yamaha's Tom Sykes couldn't set times fast enough to get into Superpole 2, and will start from the 5th row of the grid.

Out after Superpole 1: Biaggi, Sykes, Xaus

Ben Spies set the fastest time in Superpole 2, in just a single fast lap. Remarkably, on his slowdown lap, he ran wide and off the track, and was forced to abandon his bike and run back to the pits. There were a lot of people pushing during the session, as Nori Haga almost came a cropper, having a big wobble round the back of the circuit, and Shakey Byrne crashed out while on a very fast lap, having set the 2nd fastest time at the first intermediate point.

Newcomer John Hopkins struggled a little with the qualifying format, finishing 16th, although a couple of fast laps were ruined when the rear started sliding round Valencia's notoriously tricky long downhill left hander before the final turn. 

Out after Superpole 2: Ryuichi Kiyonari, Leon Haslam, Jakub Smrz, Shakey Byrne, Broc Parkes, Troy Corser, Brendan Roberts, John Hopkins

Final Superpole session: Spies went out for a lap, then came straight back in again. Laconi made the early running, taking pole at the start of the session, while Nori Haga waited for the second half of the session to go out. But as fast as Haga was, he couldn't get close enough to Laconi's time to beat it. But with just a couple of minutes in the session left, Ben Spies went out for his first attempt at pole position.

At the first sector, he was already a quarter of a second quicker than the rest of the field, and by the end of the lap, Spies had smashed Max Neukirchner's lap record by over 0.6 seconds, to take his third straight pole in a row. Three poles from three attempts is a remarkable record, and with three wins out of four races, Ben Spies is looking virtually unstoppable.

119B. SPIESYamaha YZF R11'33.270
255R. LACONIDucati 1098R1'33.955
341N. HAGADucati 1098R1'34.082
484M. FABRIZIODucati 1098R1'34.259
571Y. KAGAYAMASuzuki GSX-R 1000 K91'34.755
676M. NEUKIRCHNERSuzuki GSX-R 1000 K91'34.903
765J. REAHonda CBR1000RR1'35.056
87C. CHECAHonda CBR1000RR1'35.346
99R. KIYONARIHonda CBR1000RR1'34.536
1091L. HASLAMHonda CBR1000RR1'34.655
1196J. SMRZDucati 1098R1'34.684
1267S. BYRNEDucati 1098R1'34.742
1323B. PARKESKawasaki ZX 10R1'34.823
1411T. CORSERBMW S1000 RR1'34.863
1524B. ROBERTSDucati 1098R1'35.082
16121J. HOPKINSHonda CBR1000RR1'35.251
1766T. SYKESYamaha YZF R11'35.203
183M. BIAGGIAprilia RSV4 Factory1'35.204
19111R. XAUSBMW S1000 RR1'35.806
2056S. NAKANOAprilia RSV4 Factory1'35.416
2125D. SALOMKawasaki ZX 10R1'35.718
2233T. HILLRacing Honda CBR1000RR1'35.890
2331K. MUGGERIDGESuzuki GSX-R 1000 K91'35.909
24100M. TAMADAKawasaki ZX 10R1'36.030
2599L. SCASSAKawasaki ZX 10R1'36.119
2694D. CHECAYamaha YZF R11'36.581
2786A. BADOVINIKawasaki ZX 10R1'36.745
2877V. IANNUZZOHonda CBR1000RR1'36.813
2915M. BAIOCCOKawasaki ZX 10R1'36.826
3088R. RESCHSuzuki GSX-R 1000 K91'37.820


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I wish you could have seen Ben Spies work his way up to Q at Indy MotoGP. He was very methodical, with nary a wheel out of line as he steadily built his laptimes. He barely touched his traction control with a faint and brief crackling. Only one other rider was as methodical and smooth and that was VR. At the other end was Casey Stoner and Nick Hayden; slamming into their traction control like a stunt rider hits a rev limiter! Not comparing Ben Spies to Rossi, but it was easy to observe a similar approach to going fast on a strange track. There's a lot of smarts going on there.

..."won't be at the front when they reach Europe."  That's what was said, correct?

Looking at the MotoGP event on the same track last year, this pole time compares very favorably with riders' fastest lap times.  Only Stoner and Pedrosa (1st and 2nd in the race) were significantly faster.  Spies' time is between 3rd and 4th on the chart, in between Rossi and Dovizioso, and precedes a big string of riders also in the 1:33's (including his prosepective '10 team mate). 

Nearly everyone improved the next day at the official test, with several riders changing bikes, and everyone changing to a new series of tires, but this would still be a respectable time on a MotoGP bike. 

Nope, I just don't see the "hype" behind him... :-p

Also, for curious comparison, Hopkins on his 2nd day on a new bike is (only) one second slower than his best race lap 5 months ago.