Niccolo Canepa has ended the first day of World Superbike Championship action around Laguna Seca as one of the surprise pace setters after very nearly emerging with the fastest time in Q2.
A headline-grabbing turn from a rider that has spent his year competing in the FIM Superstock 1000 category, the former MotoGP rider has been called up to ride the Alstare Ducati in the United States this weekend as a replacement for the injured Carlos Checa.
Back on the machine he rode to the top ten in a one-off outing at Donington Park earlier in the year, Canepa was straight up to speed on the notoriously tricky Ducati 1199 Panigale, hinting at his form by setting the second fastest time in Q1.
He looked all set to go one spot better in Q2 as he became the first WSBK rider to dip below 1min 24secs, only for countryman Marco Melandri to deny him with his final effort. Despite this, Canepa was thrilled to be at the sharp end around a 'difficult' circuit.
“I'm extremely happy! To come to a track as difficult as this one, and considering this isn't my category, finishing second today is a great result. I'm also confident because I know we still have room for improvement and so I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
“Our pace is looking good and so, all things considered, I'd say we're in a good place. Thanks to the team for all their hard work so far; I hope we can improve further tomorrow.”
A positive day for Ducati as a whole, regular rider Ayrton Badovini was tenth quickest despite suffering a fall and struggling with his ankle injury around the tighter portions of the venue.
“The track is difficult but we're getting to grips with it gradually. The problem is that, with all the left-hand corners, after a while my foot starts to play up. I didn't want to push too hard today, in order to save something for tomorrow. But I'm fairly pleased because I don't think our pace is bad and it seems that the new weight distribution is making a difference. “