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|09-18-2015, 11:10 PM||#1|
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World Superbike Jerez Friday practice: Sykes quickest
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes recorded the quickest time after Friday World Superbike practice at Spain's Jerez circuit, after high track temps prevented most riders from going quicker than their morning session times.
As World Superbike resumed action after a six-week break, Tom Sykes was the fastest rider out of the starting gates. The 2014 runner-up posted the provisional best time with a 1:41.957, only three-tenths slower than his own lap record of 1:41.691. The Kawasaki rider, while his teammate Jonathan Rea holds a comfortable lead in the championship and only needs six points to seize the title, is eager to reclaim second position in the general standings from Chaz Davies, who won three out of the last four races.
“We got off a good start in the morning but our afternoon program was delayed a bit due to a strange crash, which was my fault,” said Sykes, who did not improve his times during the second free-practice session but still emerged on top in the combined time sheets. “As the track temperatures kept rising, it was difficult to find the limit, especially under braking. I lost about twenty minutes as I bent the handlebars in the crash and my crew had to replace it. My pace was pretty similar to the one I had in the morning (both he and Rea lapped in the mid 1:42 range), but I couldn't evaluate the life of the tire properly.”
Still, the Brit confirmed his competitiveness, topping an extremely tight pack of riders—the top ten are within six tenths of a second—and laying a solid base to be a protagonist on a track where he has yet to collect a win. If only his start of the season were better, Rea's parade to the title would have arguably been more difficult.
“It's disappointing, but I think the title fight was decided during the winter,” Sykes observed. “Johnny hit the ground running, while the changes my team and I opted for didn't suit neither the bike nor my style. The new engine (with stock pistons and conrods, per 2015 regulations) has a different character, which stresses the rear more. As we basically couldn't have any tests during the season, it was impossible to close the gap soon enough. I'll be back next year though, we just need to find more endurance on the tire.”
In second position, only 24 thousandths of a second slower than his teammate, Rea could wrap up the title fight with a tenth place, but has much higher goals for the weekend. “I'd love to seize the title with a victory,” he said. “I want to keep winning. I've started to think about beating Colin Edwards' record of 552 points. I have 452, with 150 still on the table. Mathematically, I think it's possible. It'd be a nice reward for my whole team, who worked so hard since the winter tests to give me a winning package, but the title is obviously our priority.”
To this end, Rea is within sight of the finish line, but the last yards are usually the most difficult. “Why should I be nervous?” he observed. “I have six chances (i.e., three events) to live the best day of my life. I was already within one corner from winning the title in Sepang. For a second I thought I had it, but in retrospect this would be the perfect place to celebrate. My family is with me this time, and it's the team's home race.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Alex Lowes took third place for Suzuki, 0.090 seconds behind Sykes. The Brit is reportedly moving over to a Yamaha alongside Sylvain Guintoli next season under the tutelage of his current team Crescent, but wants to sing a proper swan song to the GSX-R. “We had some technical issues in the morning and it also took me a few laps to get going, but we tried the same chassis regulations we had in Sepang and it worked in the heat,” said Lowes, who was the only rider in the top ten together with Jordi Torres capable of improving his lap times in FP2. “We were fast here in cold conditions during the winter tests, but in the heat it's more difficult for us to carry the corner speed we need. I have a contract with Suzuki for three more races, and I want to do a solid job.”
In World Supersport, Jules Cluzel's title hopes literally took a severe tumble as the Frenchman riding for MV Agusta broke his left tibia and dislocated his right shoulder in a late crash at turn 5. American P.J. Jacobsen is now the last rider standing between Kenan Sofuoglu and his fourth world title. However, the Turk (who was fastest on Friday) still needs to claim 22 points on the Honda rider, who posted the sixth best time.
World Superbike Jerez Friday practice results:
1. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki Racing Team 1:41.957
2. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Kawasaki Racing Team 1:41.981
3. Alex Lowes (GBR) Voltcom Crescent Suzuki 1:42.047
4. Chaz Davies (GBR) Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team 1:42.056
5. Niccolò Canepa (ITA) Althea Racing Ducati 1:42.125
6. Jordi Torres (SPA) Aprilia Racing/Red Devils 1:42.180
7. Leon Haslam (GBR) Aprilia Racing/Red Devils 1:42.254
8. Matteo Baiocco (ITA) Althea Racing Ducati 1:42.341
9. Michele Pirro (ITA) Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team 1:42.408
10. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Pata Honda WSBK 1:42.643
11. Michael Van der Mark (NET) Pata Honda WSBK 1:42.784
12. Ayrton Badovini (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia 1:42.969
13. Leandro Mercado (ARG) Barni Racing Ducati 1:42.991
14. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Voltcom Crescent Suzuki 1:43.037
15. Leon Camier (GBR) MV Agusta Reparto Corse 1:43.160
16. David Salom (SPA) Team Pedercini Kawasaki 1:43.192
17. Román Ramos (SPA) Team Go Eleven Kawasaki 1:43.242
18. Christophe Ponsson (FRA) Team Pedercini Kawasaki 1:44.133
19. Gábor Rizmayer (HUN) BMW Team Toth 1:45.693
20. Gianluca Vizziello (ITA) Grillini SBK Kawasaki 1:46.129
21. Imre Toth (HUN) BMW Team Toth 1:46.622
22. Alex Phillis (AUS) Grillini SBK Kawasaki 1:46.717