The weather at the Moscow Raceway relented just long enough to allow a nice dry Superpole. Rain in the sessions before and after luckily didn’t affect the centrepiece of Saturday’s entertainment. On a track like Moscow, with a plethora of first- and second-gear corners leading to a one kilometre straight, you would expect different bikes to perform well in different halves, with the nimble bikes owning the first two sectors, but being demolished in the last sector by the faster bikes, and qualifying played out this way.
Davide Giugliano took advantage of Tom Sykes’s Superpole three crash, as it was clear pole was his for the taking, to achieve the first pole position of his World Superbike career. Doing it on a satellite bike must be all the sweeter. Giugliano was fast all throughout qualifying, and he would have got a front row start even if Sykes hadn’t damaged his bike and reminded us of the single-bike rule.
In second place, Chaz Davies reminded us that he can be fast too. Davies could well aim for the win as, like Giugliano and Eugene Laverty, also on the front row, he’s on one of the bikes that exploits the long straight. If he’s ahead of nimble bikes and doesn’t let them past in the twisty bits, he will be ahead by the finish line. Unfortunately, Laverty and Giugliano will have the same idea.
In fourth place, Jonathan Rea will be relying on a new engine to gain some much needed speed down the straight. He has the agile sections sorted out and is just lacking outright power to be in contention. He is joined on the second row by Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa, two riders whose fortunes are in opposite directions. As Melandri seems to be slumping, especially with his teammate in front of him, thinks are picking up for Checa. Checa’s Ducati is still down on power, even without the inlet restrictors, but it looks a lot more comfortable in the corners. While huge gobs of power are not yet there, the small increases seem to help Checa ride more smoothly in challenging corners than we have seen in recent times. It remains to be seen if the electronics can be fettled to give the bike more power at the top end, but that looks like all that is keeping the red bike from the top step.
Jules Cluzel, World Supersport lap record holder here, managed to beat his teammate Leon Camier into Superpole three, but was able to only beat and injured Sylvain Guintoli and a stationary Tom Sykes. The Suzuki appears to be suffering from similar struggles to the Honda, but without the ability of Rea and his team. Both bikes are getting a little old.
Tom Sykes may have qualified the worst he’s managed in a verity long time, but with a shiny new contract for 2014, and the lead in the title chase ahead of an injured rider, I don’t think he’ll be too distraught.
In World Supersport, no matter what the weather decides, fate seems to be serving us up helpings of Kenan Sofuoglu v Sam Lowes. While the track, in theory, favours the Kawasaki, Lowes has home field advantage, at least for his team, as can be seen by Vladimir Leonov joining the rivals on the front row. Sofuoglu beat everyone last year and will believe that he can maintain a 100% record at this track.
The weather didn’t let the Supersport riders chase settings as much as they would have liked, but it may not matter if the clouds decide to turn up tomorrow. Rain is a high probability and teams were practicing pit stops, with flag-to-flag rules and single bikes meaning riders have to pit in to change tyres, and possibly settings, if the skies open.
Rain or not, with two championship leaders on the third row, the race should provide some interesting action, even if it has to happen on track instead of outside the garages.