In Phillip Island Friday qualifying
Jakub Smrz powered to the top of the timesheets in first qualifying for the Australian Round of the 2009 Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island.
The 25 year-old Czech rider was quickest around the spectacular 4.445 km circuit
with a time of 1 minute 32.312 seconds on a ‘customer' Guandalini Ducati, a fraction ahead of Noriyuki Haga, replacement for world champion Troy Bayliss in the factory Ducati Xerox team.
An excellent third place was notched up by Britain's Leon Haslam on a private Stiggy Racing Honda, while the Suzuki Alstare pairing of Max Neukirchner and Yukio Kagayama looked strong in fourth and fifth.
"For me, Phillip Island is almost the best circuit in the world. It is easy for me to make a good lap here. The bike is a good bike and 95% similar to last year's so I have been able to get on the pace very quickly. For sure, I have a lot of confidence with the tyre, even in these hot conditions", said Smrz.
The starting grid for Sunday's two races will be assigned tomorrow with the new Superpole ‘knock-out' formula for the top 20 qualified riders over three 12-minute sessions.
The first day of the 2009 campaign, which will see 14 rounds held in 5 continents, took place in ideal weather conditions, with air/track temperatures of 33°/55°C at the start of Q1. In the cooler conditions of the morning's free practice session (25°/35°C), the quickest time was set by Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) in 1'32"752. The afternoon session saw the Suzukis move to the front, while Spies finished in eighth place, behind Shinya Nakano, making his WSB debut for Aprilia, and Michel Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox). Max Biaggi's eleventh place doesn't reflect the true potential of the Italian rider as his time was set on used tyres to simulate a race distance.
As well as the return of Aprilia after seven years, today saw the first day of true championship activity for BMW in its debut season in Superbike. The German manufacturer finished the day in sixteenth position with Troy Corser and in twentieth with Ruben Xaus, but with the Australian just over a second off the pace of the provisional polesitter, the result is encouraging.
Today's first qualifying session saw the top 14 riders separated by just under a second, with less than two between Smrz and Tommy Hill (Honda Althea), twenty-first on the provisional grid.
The first fallers of the new season were David Salom (Kawasaki Pedercini) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (Ten Kate Honda) in the morning session, with Luca Scassa (Kawasaki Pedercini), Corser and Shane Byrne (Sterilgarda Ducati) all going down in qualifying, but without any serious consequences.
FIM Supersport World Championship
The Supersport runners also got their 2009 campaign underway, with little change from the previous years as Hannspree Ten Kate Honda set the early pace.
Quickest time of the day went to reigning champion Andrew Pitt, who powered to an impressive 1 minute 34.833 seconds; the other champion within the Dutch team's ranks, Kenan Sofuoglu, was just 0.006 seconds behind. The provisional front row is completed by Frenchman Fabien Foret on the first Yamaha, and evergreen Australian Garry McCoy, who looked impressive on his home track with the three-cylinder Triumph.
Eugene Laverty (Parkalgar Honda), McCoy and Massimo Roccoli (Intermoto Czech Honda) all had crashes today.