Ducati Xerox riders Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga face a difficult task to challenge for victory in the second round of the World Superbike Championship after making a surprise early exit during Portimao Superpole.
Both men will start alongside each other on the fifth row of the grid after set-up problems left both on the back foot during the closely contested Q1 session, Fabrizio and Haga being dumped out in the final seconds by, ironically, the privateer Ducatis of Lorenzo Lanzi and Luca Scassa.
Fabrizio left himself with too much work to do after falling in the opening minutes of the session. Indeed, while the Italian got back to the pit lane and out on track in time for last gasp effort, he couldn't make an improvement on his spare machine.
Blaming a persistent grip problem for his tumble, Fabrizio admits he has it all to do from 17th position on the grid now.
“It's been two days that I haven't had good enough feeling at the front – and this lack of grip was the reason for my crash. We haven't yet understood why but it's evident that I don't have grip at the front. We've really work hard over the two days, changing many things in the process, but we haven't yet managed to resolve the issue.
“We hope to solve things somehow in tomorrow morning's warm-up but the races will obviously be extremely difficult as I'm starting from the fifth row. We will, as always however, give all we've got to try to score the best possible results.”
Returning to the scene of his 2009 title-deciding heartbreak, Haga's fractious relationship with Portimao continued to diminish, the Japanese rider paying the price for choosing not to attempt his final flying lap on the softer qualifying rubber.
“As I've said several times in the past, I don't really like this track and today I'm definitely not about to change that opinion. What can I say? In Superpole, we understood straight away that after my first exit we needed to go back out and improve. I thought I'd be able to make up at least a few tenths and so I preferred not to use a qualifier, saving them for the following two sessions.
“This was not the right decision to make evidently as I wasn't able to improve on my time. We just have to wait and see tomorrow; it will of course not be easy to make a good start from 18th position on the grid.”
With Fabrizio and Haga starting 17th and 18th respectively, they will be the lowest placed of the seven Ducati riders on the grid.