Controversy surrounded qualifying - or more to the point, the lack of it - at round seven of the British Supersport Championship at Rockingham.

A bizarre series of events resulted in the customary two 30-minute sessions being cancelled with grid positions determined on the riders' current championship position instead.

The upshot of this debacle was that the Triumph ValMoto Daytona 600s of Craig Jones and Jim Moodie will start from 10th and 14th place respectively, without ever having turned a wheel in anger. Championship leader Karl Harris will start from pole.

The problems began on Friday when Team Vitrans' Dean Thomas crashed during free practice. The Australian was uninjured, however his bike was totally destroyed when it slammed into the wall at the end of the start/finish straight. The cause of this crash was very quickly identified as wet paint on the track surface.

Last year demarcation zones were introduced to Rockingham. These painted areas are designed to help improve safety by keeping speeding bikes clear of the concrete walls that surround the outer reaches of the Northamptonshire circuit. A ten second penalty is imposed on any rider who strays into the strategically placed yellow-banded sections.

Demarcation zones are not required for Rockingham's stock trade of car racing but safety regulations make them essential for motorcycle events. Track officials arranged for the required areas to be marked in preparation for this weekend's BSB round. Unfortunately, the paint and wax sealant deemed best for the job, reacted badly and the paint did not dry. Thomas was the first rider to discover this when his front wheel touched a line under braking.

The offending markings were steam cleaned overnight, however one or two patches were still present in the morning, leaving track officials with no alternative but to call in the big guns - in the form of shot blasting equipment.

Restoring grip to the surface took several hours, which forced the cancellation of qualifying. It also meant that Superstock, 125GP and New Era class activities were curtailed for the weekend - the races to be run at future rounds.

Once narrow white lines were repainted around the offending areas, two half-hour free practice session were instigated for each of the Supersport, Superbike and Yamaha R6 Cup classes to continue their individual search for settings and suitable tyres before Sunday's races.

Craig Jones' current championship position of tenth-equal equated to 10th on the grid, just behind Tom Sykes who, although level on points, has previously achieved a higher scoring finish than Jones's best of seventh. However, Leon Haslam's switch to the Superbike class means that P4 became free and all of the riders below him in the points therefore moved up one grid position. John McGuinness' absence bumped Moodie up one spot further.

Jones was frustrated by this turn of events, and felt that he could easily have qualified higher had events followed their intended course. His opinion was confirmed in the first free practice session when he went fourth fastest. Things stepped up a gear in the second session where Jones was content to work on his race set-up, while logging consistent lap times.

"It's just really bad luck the way things turned out," he said. "My ideal time in Friday's practice put me fifth fastest and I knew that was about right. Then I stepped it up today and would have gone quicker if we'd had the two qualifying sessions. Qualifying has been a bit of a thorn in our side so far but the Triumph ValMoto Daytona 600 felt much more consistent here and I probably would have got my best starting position of the season. It's a shame, but I'll just get my head down and see what I can do in the race."

Jim Moodie was not particularly pleased with the grid position that was foisted upon him. Despite this being his first visit to Rockingham, he was confident of improving with more practice time before qualifying, and had started well on Friday when he was immediately 12th fastest on ideal times.

"The starting positions had already been determined by this paint fiasco," said Moodie. "So I used free practice to check out the lines and set the bike up for the race. The Triumph ValMoto Daytona 600s definitely work well at Rockingham and I now know where the track goes but due to events beyond our control, we've got a lot of work to do in the race."

 

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