25 February 2012
Sykes takes charge ahead of Superpole
Sykes confirms Kawasaki's pre-season potential by setting an impressive pace during second qualifying at Phillip Island.
Tom Sykes heads into the first Superpole of the 2012 World Superbike Championship season with pole position in his sights after pacing Q2 at Phillip Island.
The Kawasaki rider, who has shown impressive pace during pre-season testing, shrugged off an indifferent first day around the Australian circuit to quickly leap to the head of the timesheets in Q2 with an early lap of 1min 31.938secs.
Already surpassing Jonathan Rea's provisional best from Q1, Sykes went on to significantly lower the benchmark to 1min 31.323secs, a lap that would keep his rivals at bay until the session's climax.
Max Biaggi was Sykes's closest rival in second place, albeit only after languishing in the bottom half of the timesheets for much of the session, ahead of Ducati trio Carlos Checa, Jakub Smrz and Sylvain Guintoli.
Following a quiet start to the season in testing, Leon Camier hauled his Crescent Fixi Suzuki up to a fine sixth fastest after a substantial improvement between sessions, while Red Devils Roma Ducati rider Niccolo Canepa maintained his impressive Q1 form to go faster for seventh place.
Q1 pace setter Rea failed to improve on his best lap after losing time with a fall ten minutes into the session, though he was still fast enough for eighth best, ahead of Maxime Berger, who ensured all three Effenbert Liberty riders made it into Superpole, and top BMW rider Michel Fabrizio.
Beyond Sykes, one of the big stories to emerge from Q2 was the performance of Eugene Laverty and Leon Haslam, who defied their respective hand and leg injuries – as well as minimal track time - to comfortably make it into Superpole.
Interestingly for Haslam, who underwent surgery on his leg just 24 hours before the start of the event, he was faster than BMW team-mate Marco Melandri, the Italian reaching Superpole, albeit down in a fairly lowly 14th.
However, there was huge disappointment for Chaz Davies, who qualified for his debut Superpole with the 15th best time, but has since been forced to withdraw from the event after a crash in the closing stages of the session left him with a wrist injury.
With 25 riders competing in this weekend's opener, a sizeable number of riders will watch Superpole from the sidelines this afternoon, including Hiroshi Aoyama, Bryan Staring, David Salom and Ayrton Badovini, who are firmed in grid positions 17th to 20th.
Also missing out on a chance to improve were Lorenzo Zanetti, Josh Brookes, Mark Aitchison, Raffele de Rosa and wild-card David Johnson.
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