Team Suzuki Press Office – September 28. FIXI Crescent Suzuki racer Jules Cluzel made an impressive start to this weekend’s eni FIM Superbike World Championship event on his first ever visit to the tricky Laguna Seca circuit in America.
Cluzel started the day in a steady, but solid way as he methodically learnt the 3,610m Californian circuit, with its undulating and physically demanding layout and finished the first session in 12th place, just over a second from the top of the leader-board. This weekend’s schedule saw a change of proceedings with two qualifying sessions today and Cluzel again improved in the first one, taking over a second off his lap from this morning and moving closer to the best time. In the second and final session he again made some big steps as he worked comprehensively with his crew to get the best from his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000. The final qualifying was an hour long and Cluzel yet again improved on his time by over half-of-a-second to leave him in 11th place, just 0.8-seconds from the provisional pole position set by Marco Melandri. Cluzel is convinced there is still more to come from him and the bike and will be looking to get a good grid position in tomorrow’s Superpole.
Blake Young is representing the FIXI Crescent Suzuki team at Laguna Seca this weekend as a replacement rider for Leon Camier, after the Englishman was ruled out of the event following a big crash last time out that saw him break seven bones in his foot. Young made improvements all day long on his debut for the team, as he got back into the racing groove and started to come to terms with Suzuki Superbike. He made big steps throughout the three sessions – taking over two seconds off his time – and looked like making the Superpole session on his very last lap of the day, but a crash at the Corkscrew halted his charge and he just missed out on a place in tomorrow’s shoot-out. Young was uninjured in the accident and is determined to make amends in this weekend’s races.
The different schedule at Laguna Seca will not only see tomorrow’s Superpole taking place at an earlier time of 11.00hrs local time (19.00hrs BST), but race one will also be on Saturday with a start-time of 14.00hrs local time (22.00hrs BST). The second 26-lap event of the weekend will be on Sunday, also with the earlier start of 14.00hrs local time (22.00hrs BST).
“It has been a really long day because we have had three sessions and it’s normally just two, but I felt good because I improved in every session. This morning I was 12th and I felt comfortable on my first time here at Laguna. In the second session we improved a bit and I got into a good rhythm, then this afternoon we took another step – which was the biggest one of the day. I was doing some good consistent lap-times alone, which was quite good because some riders were waiting for fast guys to follow and do a quick lap like this. I am quite confident with my pace, but think we can still find a bit more time and improve on the turning and find some more grip. If we improve this I am confident of a good weekend, because it has already started well. Tomorrow’s free practice is likely to be cold so maybe we won’t learn as much as we want to, but I hope we can continue to improve and be closer to the top and hopefully tomorrow we can fight for the first two-rows.”
“I started the weekend really excited to be back on a Suzuki GSX-R1000 and being able to ride with the FIXI Crescent Suzuki team is really good. The whole team works well together and I’m getting along with all the guys. We made huge steps in the right direction today, even though we started off pretty far down the ladder – at lot further down than I would’ve liked. At the end of the day we have taken huge strides to get the bike to where I am comfortable on it and feel like I can push it. At the end of the third session I was behind Jules and doing a good lap and was going up to the Corkscrew, when I got a bit too much lean angle and had a rear tyre slide. I let off the brake to get the bike back into shape and when I did I lost the front it and crashed. I am a little bit upset with myself because tearing-up motorcycles without going fast is something I hate doing. I know the guys will get it back together and I hope I can get a good result for them.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“It’s been a busy first day at Laguna with the extra hour-long qualifying session that has run late into the day. The whole team has responded well to the extra workload and has kept on-top of the bike preparation. Jules had never ridden a lap of the circuit before today, so to end the day 0.8 off of the quickest time is a great result. The lap-times are very close and we have to make the bike easier for him to ride in a couple of sections of the track, but I think that after a night’s sleep, Jules will also be able to think about where he can find a bit of time, so fingers-crossed he will be able to qualify well tomorrow and be competitive in the races.
“Blake has been a pleasure to work with, on his replacement duties for Leon. After not having a permanent race seat this year it was always going to be a big ask to jump on an unfamiliar bike and get straight into the kind of speed he displayed in the AMA Superbike Championship last season. The crash at the end was unfortunate; it was on a lap that would definitely have put him into Superpole, but that has finished now and the most important thing is that he is 100% ok physically. I am sure he will race a whole lot better than he did in qualifying today.”
Laguna Seca – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Qualifying: 1. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1’23.775: 2. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) +0.163: 3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +0.378: 4. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +0.528: 5. Chaz Davies (BMW) +0.559. 11. Jules Cluzel (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) +0.842. 17. Blake Young (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) 1.886.