With inclement weather forcing World Superbike organizers at the Magny Cours round in France to change the usual three-session Superpole format to just two sessions, it required some definite risk-taking if you wanted to be on the front row. That prospect didn’t faze Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, who skillfully weaved through numerous riders on his pace-setting pole position lap to score his 19th career WSBK pole position and his eighth of the 2013 season.
Mid-morning rain showers forced the first Superpole session to be declared a wet session, although while riders went out on rain tires, a dry line began to form. But once the sun began to peek out of the clouds at the beginning of the second session, things began to heat up in the pits as riders began switching to slicks. No one was a match for Sykes though, who swiftly set the quickest time with his first soft qualifying tire, and then emphatically went quicker still with his final qualifying tire, being the only rider to dip into the 1:38 bracket. Sykes’ pole-setting lap was fraught with danger however, as the British rider had to make close passes on several riders who were cruising in the racing line, including substitute rider Vincent Phillipe on the FIXI Crescent Suzuki. That Phillipe is French (as is Sylvain Guintoli, the Aprilia rider who was quickest on Friday but finished second in Superpole, and will be looking to lift himself back into championship contention this weekend) caused some grumbling in the Kawasaki pits, but Sykes wasn’t concerned.
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes grabbed...
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes grabbed his 19th career WSBK pole position (and eighth of 2013) at Magny Cours.
“It was an eventful lap,” said Sykes in his post-Superpole interview. “I enjoyed it; we’ve had some difficulties today with the wet. We’ve slowly but surely improved the ZX-10R. But when the circuit comes more towards the dry then we really start to have some good fun. Over the last lap I was very surprised, it was three riders I had to pass in two corners. Not ideal, but one of the guys, um, you know, new to the championship...let’s see, French rider, so maybe Sylvain’s been having a few words here and there. He left it quite tight for me; that was interesting, but it doesn’t matter, we did enough and overall we were able to start in a good position tomorrow which is the main thing.”
World Superbike Magny Cours Superpole qualifying results:
1. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1:38.592
2. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia 1:39.397
3. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Aprilia 1:39.933
4. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aprilia 1:40.410
5. Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Honda 1:40.864
6. Ayrton Badovini (ITA) Ducati 1:40.926
7. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW 1:41.361
8. Chaz Davies (GBR) BMW 1:41.375
9. Vincent Philippe (FRA) Suzuki 1:47.691
10. Michele Pirro (ITA) Ducati 1:47.871
11. Toni Elias (SPA) Aprilia 1:47.886
12. Jules Cluzel (FRA) Suzuki 1:48.221
13. David Salom (SPA) Kawasaki 1:48.916
14. Lorenzo Lanzi (ITA) Ducati 1:50.257
15. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda 1:51.796
16. Mark Aitchison (AUS) Kawasaki 1:41.137
17. Federico Sandi (ITA) Kawasaki 1:41.281
18. Fabrizio Lai (ITA) Ducati 1:42.474
19. Vittorio Iannuzzo (ITA) BMW 1:43.180