Team Suzuki Press Office – October 4. FIXI Crescent Suzuki had a very positive opening day to this weekend’s eni FIM Superbike World Championship at Magny-Cours as Jules Cluzel took the fourth quickest time in qualifying and stand-in rider Vincent Philippe impressed on his debut.
Cluzel was consistently with the front-runners in both of today’s sessions, even heading the timesheets during this morning’s free practice in difficult conditions. He continued with this form into the first qualifying this afternoon and was regularly in the top-five, before eventually ending the session in fourth, just 0.671 from the top-spot. Cluzel is convinced he will be able to improve as the weekend continues and is eager to get a good result in front of his home crowd.
Philippe turned heads during his first-ever session on a Superbike as he immediately topped the time sheets in the damp conditions of this morning’s free practice. He quickly settled into a smooth riding rhythm on the Yoshimura-powered GSX-R that was reminiscent of his World Endurance Championship style. This afternoon he was able to learn more about the bike in dry conditions and continued to impress as he recorded the seventh fastest time around the 4,411m French circuit. Philippe will be looking to improve further tomorrow and learn more about the bike as he heads towards his first races in World Superbike. The Frenchman was at Magny-Cours today as a substitute for the injured Leon Camier who is still recovering from the damage he sustained in Turkey. He had some of the pins removed from his foot this week and is continuing with a thorough fitness schedule to be fit for the final race of the season at Jerez.
Today’s sessions were held in very changeable conditions with a constant threat of heavy rain always in the air.
Sylvain Guintoli set the fastest time in the first qualifying session, but with rain forecast for tomorrow morning, this afternoon’s times look like being the ones that will decide the Superpole positions for tomorrow afternoon.
“I am happy with today, because we were around the fourth of fifth position, maybe tomorrow second or third and then hopefully we can arrive at the first position on Sunday! I feel like it is easy to be fast, but I’m struggling to enjoy the bike because it is moving and spinning a lot. I think this is mostly due to the track condition, it’s not the best and hopefully we won’t have any more rain for tomorrow. Today a lot of rain was expected, but it never happened, but it is forecast for tonight so maybe we’ll have these conditions tomorrow. I am only 0.6 from the leader, but I think it was possible to be faster, because at the end if we had put in the new tyre I could have been quicker. This is not the race today though and we have already made Superpole if it is raining tomorrow, so we have to be happy where we are. It looks like we have a good pace and this is important if the weather is bad tomorrow and we cannot do any more dry testing.”
“It was a really good day for me and I am very happy. With the bad conditions on track this morning, I know these well and it was quite easy for me to adapt to the bike. The bike and the experience of the team really helped me, but I didn’t expect to go so well, so I think in these conditions I will be ok. In the dry I didn’t know how the bike behaved or how the tyres worked and I thought it would be difficult, but now when I see the lap-times I am really happy – to be where I am is really good. I had a good feeling from the front and rear tyres and the FIXI Crescent Suzuki is easy to ride and the electronics work very well. I had a little problem with the old tyre at the end of the session, so I need to try again tomorrow and see how my lines are and learn about the power of the bike, because in Endurance we use standard engines and they are very different to the Superbike. I am looking forward to tomorrow and the rest of the weekend; it is good to be here and I need to try some more things, especially the old tyre.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“As always seems to be the case Magny Cours brought quite mixed weather and difficult conditions for all the riders, but the track was good enough to at least use slicks and despite the low grip levels we were able to get some decent set-up work started. Jules is growing in confidence week-by-week and I think that his Superbike riding technique has improved on this type of slow-speed circuit compared to the start of the year. This means he is able to handle the slow-corner exits and slow-speed chicanes much better and understand how to get the bike around the track quickly and it is showing in the lap-times.
“Vincent has done a stunning job for his first day on a brand-new bike and on the Pirelli tyres that he has never used before. Ok he knows the track very well, but even so I don’t think any of us expected him to settle in so quickly with the machine. It is a GSX-R, but it is very different to the World Endurance Championship bike that he usually campaigns. It has been a pleasure working with him on the first day; he’s a gentleman and obviously a very fast rider, so let’s see what the rest of the weekend can bring.”
Magny-Cours – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Qualifying: 1. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1’38.709: 2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +0.386: 3. Chaz Davies (BMW) +0.669: 4. Jules Cluzel (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) +0.671: 5. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) +0.742. 7. Vincent Philippe (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) +0.870.