Team Suzuki Press Office – June 8. FIXI Crescent Suzuki’s Jules Cluzel powered to eighth on the grid for tomorrow’s two races in the eni FIM Superbike World Championship at Portimao in Portugal after an eventful Superpole that also saw the Frenchman top the timesheet in the first session.
Cluzel made his way through to this afternoon’s Superpole by way of finishing in 14th place in this morning’s second qualifying practice and in the process taking over a second off his best time from yesterday. The Superbike Rookie then improved further in the final free session and reduced his time by over three-tenths-of-a-second to put him 10th quickest. In Superpole 1 he used his first qualifying tyre to perfect effect as he managed to force his Yoshimura-powered Suzuki GSX-R to the top on the leader-board and move comfortably into the Superpole 2. This was the first time that Cluzel has topped the leader-board in a Superbike session and the first time FIXI Crescent Suzuki has led the way in any Superpole.
Unfortunately the weather intervened and the second session had to be stopped due to rain, making Superpole 2 a 20-minute outing and the second and final session of what was now declared a Wet Superpole. The rain didn’t last though and the track remained dry, so Cluzel and the rest of the field were able to use slick tyres. The FIXI Crescent Suzuki man again used his qualifying tyre to good effect, but couldn’t quite match his earlier heroics and brought his machine home in an impressive and creditable eighth. Cluzel was pleased with his efforts and will be looking to improve further in tomorrow’s races.
Leon Camier didn’t have such a positive Superpole after a calculated gamble in the first session failed to materialise and he was eliminated early on, without having the chance to use his qualifying tyres. He was sitting comfortably in sixth place after setting a competitive time on a race compound tyre, but the Pirelli qualifiers worked so well around the 4,592m Portuguese circuit that other riders produced better times and relegated him to 13th on the timesheets. Camier could only watch as the clock ticked down and he had no opportunity to rectify the matter as the session drew to a close. He was heartened though by his race-pace, which saw him qualify for Superpole earlier in the day in sixth place and follow that with seventh fastest in the final free practice. Camier will now be looking to make a good start in the races to get up amongst the front-runners early on.
Today’s practices and Superpole were held in mixed and inclement weather, that saw sun, wind, cloud and rain at the Portimao circuit in varying amounts and intensity. Superpole was won yet again by Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes; his fifth consecutive victory this season.
Cluzel and Camier will battle it out with the World Superbike field in Sunday’s two races over 22-laps, with the riders covering 101.024km of the Portuguese circuit before they see the chequered flag. The first event gets underway at 12.00hrs local time (12.00hrs BST); with the second scheduled for 15.30hrs local time (15.30hrs BST).
“I am pleased when I can smile inside my helmet when I’m on the bike and I have been able to do that today. When we used the qualifying tyre I had a really good feeling with the bike and for me it felt like everything I want from the FIXI Crescent Suzuki at this moment. It felt like a big step between the race tyre and the qualifier, so we have to understand why, but the good thing from today is that I now understand what I want, so we can now work towards that. I had a similar feeling to today in race two at Phillip Island, where when I started the race I had good grip, but that has been hard to repeat since then, but we had it today. I am a bit disappointed with eighth place because I think we could have done a little bit better. I missed the first fast-lap on the qualifier so had to do another one and made a few mistakes, so we could have been further up the grid. I think we are moving in a good way, so I am happy with this.”
“It’s really frustrating because I made a call that no-one else would go that much faster, but people like Checa, Badovini and Jules made a massive step on a qualifier. The difference in the times on the tyres was not a lot at Donington, but here a lot of people went a second-and-a-bit faster. We were sixth when the others put in the qualifiers and I still thought we’d be fine, but we left it too late, so I’m disappointed about what happened. The race-pace at the moment is not good enough for the front group, but I will be aiming to get to the next group back and that will be a good achievement from where we are on the grid and then we’ll have to see what happens from there. We made a change in Superpole, but we need to try that tomorrow in warm-up with a full tank of fuel, and if it feels right, we’ll use it. I’m hoping to get some good passes done early on and be aiming to get up to that group around fifth or sixth position and try to do the best we can.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“For Jules and his team, eighth place on the grid for tomorrow’s race is a good reward for all the hard work they have put in this weekend. It hasn’t been easy to give him the package he needs to feel comfortable on this technical circuit. He used the first of his qualifiers well in Superpole 1 and had perfect track position behind Melandri, which helped him take more than a second off his best lap of the weekend and finish at the top of the timesheets for the first time this year, which was a great boost to all the team. The lap didn’t quite come together in the second part of Superpole, but there were 11 other Factory bikes out there and Jules managed to take some great scalps to qualify eighth.
“For Leon, the race tyre pace was positive, but the result was disastrous! He has been chipping away all weekend and the bike is very competitive on a race tyre. Leon decided that he wanted to keep two qualifiers for what would have been Superpole 2 and 3, but the new 17″ Pirelli qualifiers worked brilliantly well here and unfortunately all the guys behind him that used them made great use of them and left Leon down in 13th place and on the fifth row. It’s happened before in Superpole and it will happen again, but hopefully not to us! Leon now has a real job to do tomorrow to generate a result that he and the bike are capable of.”
Portimao – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Superpole: 1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1’41.360: 2. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) +0.001: 3. Jonathan Rea (Honda) +0.427: 4. Marco Melandri (BMW) +0.755: 5. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +0.849. 8. Jules Cluzel (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) +1.285. 13. Leon Camier (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) +1.879.