The third round of the Corona Extra World Superbike Championship at Valencia is shaping up to be a battle of the Ducatis, with current championship leader Troy Bayliss setting the pace on his Xerox Ducati and just 0.14secs ahead of Ruben Xaus on the Sterilgarda-Berik Ducati.
During the official SBK test at Valencia, Bayliss burned up the track with a lap time of 1min 33.758sec the fastest lap seen on the twisting Spanish track and well under the record of 1min 35.007secs set by Neil Hodgson way back in 2003.
This is Xaus' comeback year after two seasons in MotoGP, he is also still recovering from his pre-season leg injury sustained during a motocross training session. In the first two rounds Xaus didn't qualify well but he did work his way up the field during the race and came home with three out of four top ten finishes. It looks like he means business at his home round in Spain.
The Alstare Corona Extra Suzukis of Troy Corser and Yukio Kagayama were fourth and fifth respectively with Corser well recovered from his Philip Island crash. Foggy Petronas' Steve Martin was fifth fastest and has been persistently in the top spots through out testing. His young team-mate Craig Jones was down in thirty first place due to technical issue;, his aim is to be top twenty and he would like to qualify for Superpole. The team had a productive test at Misano and Jones is happy with his base settings - he is hoping he can now translate that into results.
The PSG-1 Kawasakis were on form with Fonsi Nieto in eighth and Regis Laconi in tenth, unfortunately for British race fans Chris Walker was sixteenth. Walker has taken on a large testing role within PSG-1 so it is likely that he is checking out some changes that will be useful when it comes to qualifying.
Splitting the green machines for ninth was Ducati's Lorenzo Lanzi who is riding with a torn muscle due to a training incident.
Gianluca Nannelli, who is standing in for the injured Frankie Chilli on the D.F.X. Treme Honda, was circulating in twentieth. Chilli is recovering from his broken pelvis sustained during a nasty highside whilst testing in Misano.
The session was red flagged briefly when Lorenzo Alfonsi, who is replacing Sebastien Gimbert, crashed out. Vittorio Iannuzzo and Barros also fell, with Iannuzzo needing medical attention.
WSBK free practice results (1) – Valencia:
1. Troy Bayliss
2. Ruben Xaus
3. Troy Corser
4. Yukio Kagayama
5. Steve Martin
6. Alex Barros
7. Noriyuki Haga
8. Fonsi Nieto
9. Lorenzo Lanzi
10. Regis Laconi