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|07-18-2015, 02:00 PM||#1|
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World Superbike Laguna Seca Friday: Davies quickest
Kawasaki called, Ducati answered. At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, championship leader Jonathan Rea kicked off the action in style but Chaz Davies topped the time sheets at the end of the first two free-practice sessions with a best lap of 1:23.633, only two tenths of a second slower than the current WSBK record on race tires (1:23.403, set by Davide Giugliano in 2014). The provisional top five features three Ducatis and two Kawasakis, somewhat mimicking the performances from last round in Misano, Italy.
“This track seems to favor the Panigale, as there aren't long straights or many big accelerations in high gears” commented Davies. “We found a good balance and ran some setup comparisons that gave us clear answers and a solid base to work on. But, the Kawasakis are still the bikes to beat.”
Given the twisted, narrow nature of the track, which does not offer many passing opportunities, tomorrow's qualifiers will be particularly important ahead of Sunday's races. “I'm curious to put the Q tire on as, on this surface, it really improves grip,” commented the Welshman to this end. “It's almost like the bike gets sucked to the ground in the elevation changes.”
In second position, Tom Sykes reiterated his ambitions to keep the title fight open as long as possible. The 2014 runner-up on Kawasaki currently trails his teammate Jonathan Rea—fourth, 0.338 seconds behind Davies—by 133 in the rankings, a gap he needs to reduce or maintain not to allow the Ulsterman to head to Sepang (Malaysia) with a match point.
“The track was still a bit greasy, but I enjoyed riding today,” Sykes said. “Turn One still gives me the goosebumps, it takes big to commit on the top of the hill and lean the bike in sixth gear and I found them (laughs). I had a disgusting start to the season, but the championship is still open. This track served me well in the past (he's the only rider on the grid to have won in California), and there's still room for improvement.”
Giugliano, who will have MotoGP legend and childhood idol Kevin Schwantz in his pits, took third place (0.225 seconds behind his teammate) despite a late, innocuous crash in Turn Two. “I'm not happy with the setup,” the Italian observed. “We still didn't find what I'm looking for, and I'm a bit worried because I'm not consistent, but it's reassuring to see three Ducatis in the top five.”
The Ducati-Kawasaki domination was further cemented with Rea in fourth place and privateer Niccolò Canepa's in fifth, albeit half a second behind Davies. The factory Aprilias, after lying at the bottom of the top ten in the morning, recovered to sixth and seventh in FP2, followed by the Suzukis ridden by Randy De Puniet and Alex Lowes. The Frenchman, who has collected only 22 point in 16 races in his debut year in WSBK, archived his best performance of the year.
“It's the end of a nightmare,” said De Puniet, who also serves as a tester for Suzuki's MotoGP bike. “I don't know why, but the short break seems to have done well both to me and the bike. I finally can push the front and, most important, I'm enjoying being out on the track again. I see the light, which is crucial from a mental perspective. I still have five rounds to reverse the negative trend, then we'll see about next year.”
World Superbike Laguna Seca Friday practice results:
1. Chaz Davies (GBR) Aruba.it Ducati 1:23.633
2. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki Racing 1:23.789
3. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Aruba.it Ducati 1:23.858
4. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Kawasaki Racing 1:24.021
5. Niccolò Canepa (ITA) Althea Racing Ducati 1:24.143
6. Leon Haslam (GBR) Aprilia Racing/Red Devils1:24.240
7. Jordi Torres (SPA) Aprilia Racing/Red Devils 1:24.384
8. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Voltcom Crescent Suzuki 1:24.598
9. Alex Lowes (GBR) Voltcom Crescent Suzuki 1:24.628
10. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Pata Honda 1:24.742
11. David Salom (SPA) Team Pedercini Kawasaki 1:24.820
12. Ayrton Badovini (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia 1:24.824
13. Leon Camier (GBR) MV Agusta 1:25.496
14. Michael Van der Mark (NET) Pata Honda 1:25.636
15. Matteo Baiocco (ITA) Althea Racing Ducati 1:25.810
16. Román Ramos (SPA) Team Go Eleven Kawasaki 1:26.393
17. Gábor Rizmayer (HUN) BMW Team Toth 1:26.879
18. Christophe Ponsson (FRA) Team Pedercini Kawasaki 1:27.117
19. Santiago Barragán (SPA) Grillini SBK Kawasaki 1:27.579
20. Gianluca Vizziello (ITA) Grillini SBK Kawasaki 1:28.164
21. Imre Toth (HUN) BMW Team Toth 1:28.532