A round-up of the day's events at the Assen round of World Superbikes.
Today, like yesterday, the day's events were set around the weather. With a wet qualifying session this morning, the Superpole places were determined by the three dry laps the riders were able to bank on Friday afternoon. This meant that 2010 World Champion Max Biaggi was cursed with 17th place, just outside the Superpole slots, as he couldn't get his bike working to his satisfaction before the dry track ran out. Limited set-up time punishes riders like Biaggi who like to spend time tweaking their bikes to the perfect set-up before they can get the best out of them, and missing out on Superpole denies them yet more set-up time.
Another thing that can affect riders in similar ways is the single-bike rule, which was what caught out Hiroshi Aoyama on Friday and Leon Camier, Eugene Laverty, Ayrton Badovini and Maxime Berger, who all lost time in the first wet Superpole session, guaranteeing that they wouldn't get into the second session. All these events conspired to give Canadian rookie Brett McCormick his first taste of Superpole and gift him 13th place.
One man who managed to rise above weather and other issues was 2012's only pole-man Tom Sykes. Three pole positions in three race weekends show that in spite of the bike, in spite of Assen being a track that suits Ducatis and Hondas, nothing will get in the way of a good qualifier. With his injured team-mate recovering in hospital, Kawasaki could do with some good news and Assen could be the track where Tom finally converts good qualifying into a win. The Cathedral may well not be as much of a drag on tyres as other tracks, nullifying the Kawasaki's obvious weakness.
Jonathan Rea likes Assen and his team is based a short hop from the track, ensuring his pit box will be full of friends and family of the team and with wins at the track already under his helmet, he is one of the favourites for the win.
Once again, Jakub Smrz qualifies on the front row, one place up from his semi-team-mate Sylvain Guintoli. If I were asked which one were most likely for a podium, it would be Guintoli. Neither man has ever won a World Superbike race and Smrz has 4 podiums to Guintoli's 3, but Guintoli is more of a finisher.
In fifth place on the grid is the current World Champion Carlos Checa. He too struggled getting a perfect setup for qualifying and placed the blame firmly at the feet of the conditions. He still goes into Sunday as a favourite for a pair of podiums, in spite of his second-row start.
The BMWs of Michel Fabrizio and Leon Haslam take the sixth and seventh spots, but in the wetter sessions, the bike seemed to perform much better than expected, so if the track is damp, expect them, and possibly 9th place Marco Melandri, to make a decent charge for the front.
John Hopkins rounded off the second Superpole session with 8th place. This is his best qualifying of the season and could give him the confidence he needs to do well.
In World Supersport, wet or dry, the Honda CBR600RRs of Sam Lowes and Broc Parkes were always at the top, swapping top places in every session. Jules Cluzel, whose Honda was usually the fastest in the speed traps, will be aiming to make it an all-Honda podium, but Kenan Sofuoglu is likely to throw his Kawasaki into the mix.
Rain is forecast for Sunday, but how much and when it arrives will determine how much more of an impact the weather will play. A damp race will favour Sykes, Melandri and Haslam, but a wet one should be all about Sykes. A dry Sunday will favour the pre-weather favourites of Rea and Checa.