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Red-Flags Interrupt Imola WSB 1st Day

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Team Suzuki Press Office – May 9.  Voltcom Crescent Suzuki started its Italian campaign at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola today with mixed fortunes after a series of red-flags delayed the first day of track-action for the eni FIM Superbike World Championship.

Eugene Laverty finished the day’s sessions in eighth place after the second free practice was red-flagged and eventually suspended with 12 minutes. 40 seconds remaining, due to a broken drainage cover at turn four. The Irishman’s fastest time of 1’49.259 was set on his ninth, and final lap of the session aboard his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R, despite only recording 19 revolutions for the entire day. Laverty was just about to return to the track with fresh rubber when the second red flag was brought out and all further track activity was cancelled.

The morning’s initial practice was all but redundant for the Suzuki racer, after an electronics-issue saw him set just three flying laps, but with the situation resolved, the team was confident of improving further as the afternoon progressed.

Alex Lowes started work at the iconic Italian circuit in great form, learning the track quickly and completing the morning’s session in the top 10. The afternoon practice continued the British racer’s education, setting his fastest-lap –time of 1’49.710 on old tyres before pitting for a new set as the session was adjourned; leaving him in 11th place heading in to tomorrow’s final timed free practice qualifier.

With air temperatures reaching 28°C by the afternoon – and the track hitting 47°C – the Imola circuit was bathed in sunshine for the day’s activities. An initial delay from a previous class saw the second session take to the track 35 minutes behind schedule, while a fire just behind the fences at Tamburello – and the cracked drainage cover at turn four – brought out two red flags before the eventual suspension, leaving Honda’s Jonathan Rea in control of the times.

Tomorrow’s forecast predicts an equally-warm and clear day with Voltcom Crescent Suzuki back on track at 09:45hrs local time (08:45BST) for the final timed free practice session.

Laverty and Lowes are confident their respective GSX-R1000 Suzukis are on-course to secure the desired places ahead of the all-important Superpole at 15:00hrs (14:00BST).

Eugene Laverty:
“How many timed laps did we do today, maybe six proper flying laps? We didn’t get anything done in the first practice with the electrical problem we had, and then in the second practice, the activity was cancelled with 13 minutes left. The bike is feeling quite good considering we haven’t done any laps yet and we’re not too far away, so I’m looking forward to actually starting some real work tomorrow morning!”

Alex Lowes:
“Today was good; obviously frustrating at the end because we had a plan for the session. I worked really hard on old tyres, learning the track and feeling more comfortable, and I was hoping to improve at the end on new tyres which I didn’t get the chance to do. So it’s frustrating when you don’t get the session that you want, but obviously everyone lost those last 12 minutes. I think I’ll make a big-step tomorrow after sleeping on it tonight. It’s a fun track to ride so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“It’s great to be in Italy and at the fantastic Imola race track, but today was a strange day at the office. We lost a whole session this morning with a glitch on Eugene’s bike – which obviously put him a session behind the rest of the guys – but we were improving nicely this afternoon. We were about to run new tyres for the end of the session, but then it was all over so there was no chance to improve further.

“For Alex, he has done a great job at what is effectively another new track for him. He has been chipping-away and set his best time on tyres with 20 laps – again we were about to run new ones at the end of FP2 to set a decent qualifying time and get him inside the top-10 – but these things happen. Safety has to be the priority and we hope the weather stays consistent in the morning. We’ll get out there and push hard to make sure both bikes are in the top-10 for Superpole tomorrow afternoon.”

Imola – eni FIM Superbike World Championship – Free Practice combined times: 1. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1’48.147: 2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +0.040: 3. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) +0.114: 4. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +0.176: 5. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) +0.182. 8. Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1.112. 11. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +1.563.