WSBK » 24 October 2009
Spies takes vital pole, Haga down in 10th
With several of his shootout rivals having used up their qualifying rubber, Spies held a sizeable advantage over his closest competitor, that being Shane Byrne.
A nod to the dominance he exerted during pre-season testing at the same circuit, Byrne's love for Portimao was evident by an excellent last gasp lap on used tyres, a best result of the season for both himself and the Sterilgarda team, as well as one that makes him the best placed Ducati rider on the grid. It is a status that could prove crucial for the Italian manufacturer come race day…
With Haga down the order, Michel Fabrizio could also be forced to take on an even bigger role on Sunday in preventing Spies from taking victory, the Italian putting himself in a favourable position in third, albeit six tenths adrift of Spies and slower than Byrne.
A favourite for pole position heading into Superpole, Jonathan Rea's hopes of challenging Spies were scuppered when he was baulked by Fonsi Nieto on his quickest lap. Although the Northern Irishman was unlikely to beat Spies with his ultimate lap, it was still enough to drop him to fourth with a time that was several tenths slower than he managed in Q2.
The battle for positions on the second row was hard fought, with Leon Haslam, Max Biaggi – who was back on track looking rather battered and bruised following an accident in the preceding practice session - and Nieto ending up fifth, sixth and seventh, but separated by a mere three hundredths of a second. Corser, meanwhile, missed out on finishing any higher than eighth after dropping his BMW early on in Q3 and ending up more than a second adrift of Nieto.
Outside the top ten, there were several notable performance, not least from debutant Sylvain Guintoli, whose rapid ascension up the timesheets was capped off with a fine result of 11th on the grid. Out-qualifying Suzuki team-mate Yukio Kagayama on his first attempt, Guintoli was even fifth quickest after Q1, but while he couldn't quite replicate that pace in Q2, he will nonetheless be satisfied to have also beaten BSB rival Leon Camier, who starts 13th.
Camier was lucky not to be eliminated from Q1 when he was almost edged out by Matthieu Lagrive and then Luca Scassa. However, when Lagrive fell just short and Scassa crashed his Pedercini Kawasaki, the new BSB champion was free to improve to an eventual fourth row grid slot ahead of his second appearance with the Aprilia team.
Of those bidding farewell to their respective teams this weekend, Carlos Checa was 12th, Kagayama 14th, Makoto Tamada 15th and Broc Parkes 18th.
However, attention remains firmly fixed on Spies and Haga. Indeed, with Spies able to wrap up the title, regardless of Haga's results, should he win both races around Portimao, he is now in an ideal position to capitalise on his rival's woes.
Even so, Haga is a renowned competitor and can take heart from the fact he has won races from further back, most notably his victory at the Phillip Island season opener from 13th on the grid.
It means the stage is set for a thrilling finale…
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