Scintillating maiden pole for Crutchlow
27 March 2010
Cal Crutchlow will start his fourth career World Superbike Championship event from pole position after a superb record-breaking lap in Superpole saw him dominate the opposition in Portugal.
Having maintained a relatively low profile throughout the weekend, Crutchlow surged to the front when it mattered with an outstanding 1min 42.092secs Superpole lap, an effort that undercuts Yamaha predecessor Ben Spies' previous best by almost four tenths of a second.
Additionally, Crutchlow was also almost half a second faster than his closest rivals, the reigning Supersport champion being joined on the front row by Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa and Leon Haslam.
A session of thrills and the occasional spill, Crutchlow's performance comes a month after Yamaha struggled for form at the Phillip Island season opener, the Briton proceeding to laud the manufacturer's efforts in turning the temperamental R1 around during the break.
Even so, Crutchlow's lap time came as something of a surprise having allowed Haslam and Jonathan Rea to claim the spoils during the knockout phases. However, Crutchlow would set a remarkable benchmark on his first lap out during the deciding shootout, with not a single rider able to challenge him.
Biaggi got closest to the 24-year-old, the Italian just 0.015secs adrift after the third sector of his quickest lap. However, the Italian would go on to lose almost half a second in just two bends to leave him well adrift by the end of the session.
Even so, the Aprilia rider held onto second place, marginally ahead of Phillip Island race winner Carlos Checa, who made it two consecutive front row starts on the Althea Ducati, and Leon Haslam.
Beyond Crutchlow, the shootout remained a fairly muted affair, with Jonathan Rea emerging fifth having set the pace during Q2, while Jakub Smrz, Shane Byrne and Troy Corser settled for the remaining positions on row two, the latter recovering from an earlier technical issue.
Instead, much of the action was disputed during the first two knockout phases, the most notable surprise being the elimination of both Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga at the end of Q1.
While Fabrizio gave himself too much to do when an early fall necessitated a rush back to the pit lane to jump on his unfavourable spare bike, Haga was off-form throughout as he gradually slipped down the timesheets, the Japanese rider sitting in the pit lane as he watched Lorenzo Lanzi and then Luca Scassa on their privateer Ducatis leapfrog them in the final seconds.
Embarrassingly for the Ducati Xerox team, it means all five satellite 'twins' will start ahead of both Fabrizio and Haga come race day.
Fabrizio was not the only rider to hit the deck during the session, with both James Toseland and Max Neukirchner suffering fairly sizeable offs.
Toseland was sent skyward by his bucking Yamaha after it high-sided through the long final bend, the Briton needing a few moments to collect himself before walking unaided to the track side.
Neukirchner, meanwhile, was lucky not to have suffered any injuries after a spectacular accident that left him sprawled in the middle of the circuit while his Ten Kate Honda destroyed itself through the gravel trap. The German even made it out in Q2, but would qualify no higher than 13th.
Just outside the top eight, Sylvain Guintoli was a solid ninth for Suzuki, while Ruben Xaus posted one of his best qualifying performances on the BMW to date with a run to tenth position.
Leon Camier will start 11th on the second Aprilia, ahead of Tom Sykes' Kawasaki, Neukirchner and Lorenzo Lanzi, while Toseland at least gets to start 15th rather than 16th after Scassa failed to set a time in Q2.