Magny-Cours (France), Saturday 2nd October: the French public were witness to a hard-fought Superpole this afternoon at the Magny-Cours circuit. Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) will start tomorrow’s races from fifth position, having missed out on the front row by mere hundredths of a second, while his team-mate Noriyuki Haga, also on the second row, will line up in eighth place.
Rain overnight meant that the track was still damp for this morning’s second qualifying session, and this prevented yesterday’s fastest riders from lowering their best times until the final fifteen minutes. Almost all of the quickest laps were recorded in the final stages and this was also the case for the Ducati Xerox riders. Noriyuki managed to marginally improve on his best time set yesterday but, with thirteen riders ducking under 1m39 this morning, the Japanese rider had to be satisfied with sixteenth position. Michel, already second yesterday, had even better pace this morning and in the last five minutes of the session was able to improve on his time by half a second, to qualify for the afternoon’s Superpole in second place.
Conditions were much warmer for the afternoon sessions with a track temperature of around 38°C. Michel and his team worked well to improve grip, lost due to the hotter track conditions. Noriyuki, just minutes into the session, unfortunately took a fall at the 18th corner but, although travelling at a fairly fast speed, the rider was unhurt. Haga went straight back out on his second bike but, incredibly, the same thing happened again and although unhurt, it meant he was temporarily left without a bike. Noriyuki’s technicians worked extremely hard to prepare the only bike that was returned to the garage in time for the Superpole.
Superpole 1: both Noriyuki and Michel made a first exit on race rubber. To be safe, the pair went out for a second time (the Japanese rider on a qualifier), and closed well within the top sixteen, in third (Fabrizio) and eighth (Haga) place.
Superpole 2: this time the Roman rider opted to use the first of two qualifiers available to him, recording a time fast enough to place him well within the top eight, in fifth. Noriyuki made a first exit on the used Q from session one, followed by a second exit on the second Q, finishing the second phase in sixth position.
Superpole 3: with only race tyres left, Noriyuki had to push as hard as possible in the final phase. Michel, making a first exit on the used qualifier from the second phase, recorded the fifth fastest time. He went back out for a last attempt on race rubber and recorded a very fast lap which bodes well for the races, closing in fifth position, with Noriyuki eighth.
“Another positive day for us overall. We know we have a good race pace and this gives me confidence. We’ve worked well and, even though I would have liked to make the front row, fifth position isn’t bad. I wasn’t able to make the clean lap that I needed but I’m nevertheless fairly satisfied as we’ve been fast in all of the sessions this weekend and I feel prepared for tomorrow.”
“Obviously the two crashes didn’t help us at all because they meant that my technicians had only a few minutes in which to prepare my bike for the Superpole. They were fantastic and, bearing in mind they had to do so much in so little time, I am also satisfied with the second row result. The crashes were similar, in that I lost the front on both occasions; luckily I was not hurt and I’d say I’m confident for tomorrow. We’ve been lucky with the weather up until now so now we just have to hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow either.”
TIMES (Superpole): 1. Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1m37.6; 2. Guintoli (Suzuki) 1m37.7; 3. Smrz (Aprilia) 1m37.7; 4. Biaggi (Aprilia) 1m38.0; 5. Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) 1m38.0; 6. Rea (Honda) 1m38.1; 7. Checa (Ducati) 1m38.2; 8. Haga (Ducati Xerox) 1m38.4…