Friday, July 31

MAX IS BACK!



It may be a little early to say that definitively because we still have another two days to go until race day at Sepang, but if the first pre-qualifying session is anything to go by, Max Biaggi has fire in his belly and the top step of the podium on his mind.

In the opening 45 minute session for Sunday's eni Superbike World Championship races, Biaggi was more than a second clear of the rest of the field in the early stages before ending up just over a tenth of a second ahead.

Second fastest man was double Laguna Seca winner Chaz Davies on his Ducati Panigale.  The Welshman was the only rider apart from Biaggi to break the 2m 5s bracket, with a best of 2m 04.972s.

The Kawasakis of Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes were next, half a second behind Biaggi's best effort.

As expected, having tested at the Sepang International circuit recently,  two-time Superbike Champion Biaggi set the pace from the start, the Aprilia Racing Team rider more than a second clear of the field in the early stages.  Halfway through the session the gap was still more than six tenths of a second as Biaggi’s early lap time of 2m04.823s stood firm.


Gianluca Vizziello (Grillini SBK Team) was the first to post a timed lap with championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) and  SWC debutant Alex Phillis on the second of the Grillini Kawasaki machines the last two riders to leave their respective boxes.

As the session progressed, Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati SBK Team), and the Kawasaki Racing Team pairing of Sykes and Rea moved into the top four with Davies closing the gap to the top spot to 0.149s at the end of the 45 minute session.

Rea eventually got the better of Sykes with Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) and his team-mate Jordi Torres both improving in the final moments.

Jonathan Rea was third fastest behind Biaggi and Davies...
Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) was demoted to seventh after Torres’s last lap improvement, the British rider finished a tenth of a second ahead of Randy de Puniet who was eighth on the second Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Pata Honda had a solid opening session with reigning World Champion Sylvain Guintoli and current WSS champ Michael vd Mark ninth and tenth respectively.

Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia), Roman Ramos (Team Go Eleven), Niccolo Canepa (Althea Racing), David Salom (Team Pedercini) and Matteo Baiocco (Althea Racing) completed the top 15.

Italian Davide Giugliano is absent this weekend:  the #34 will also not return to racing action until 2016. The team had on display his Panigale machine with the initials GWS (Get Well Soon), a nice touch from the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati SBK Team.

For the full result sheet, click here

For those interested in the comparative competitiveness of Superbikes versus MotoGP machines, the MotoGP lap record at Sepang is 2m 01.150s, set by Marc Marquez last year.  The MotoGP pole record is 1m 59.791s, also set by Marquez last year.

The Superbike lap record stands at 2m 04.884s, set by Marco Melandri last year and the Superbike pole record is 2m 03.002s, set by Sylvain Guintoli last year.  Both were racing Aprilias...