Red Devil Romas Aprilia rider Michel Fabrizio showed that he will be one of the contenders at Phillip Island during Friday’s practice and provisional qualifying sessions, topping both sessions for this weekend’s opening round of the 2013 World Superbike Championship. Fabrizio raised eyebrows in the paddock in the morning when he comfortably finished the opening practice session held in good but windy conditions at the coastal Australian circuit on top by nearly half a second, and the Italian privateer Aprilia rider continued that form in the afternoon’s qualifying session. Factory Aprilia pilot Eugene Laverty came close in a late-session surge, but still gave the Italian marque a solid one-two on the timesheets. BMW Motorrad Goldbet’s Marco Melandri took third with a still-healing shoulder injury, while FIXI Crescent Suzuki’s Leon Camier showed that the team’s impressive testing results were not a fluke by taking fourth spot.
Meanwhile, Carlos Checa—who grabbed the top spot in the Phillip Island WSBK test earlier this week—had a tough start to the 2013 season, suffering a nasty highside 15 minutes from the end of the morning practice session that resulted in the Spaniard only completing a total of 14 laps for the day. Still, the Team SBK Astare Ducati rider and former WSBK champion turned a time that put him in 12th spot.
"I'm not fully satisfied yet because we still need to find the perfect setup for the race distance,” said Fabrizio after his performance during the World Superbike sessions at Phillip Island on Friday. “Hopefully we'll get it sorted tomorrow, and we'll be ready for Sunday. Conditions were a bit more difficult during the afternoon compared to the morning, due primarily to the wind that made changing direction harder. Last Monday (during the official WSBK test), I was hit by a seagull on my arm while I was on the straight and I am still feeling the pain. I can say though, that we're on the right direction. We're planning on doing some small adjustments for tomorrow and these will hopefully make us improve further."
Checa confessed that the Phillip Island crash Friday morning was one of the biggest in his World Superbike career. “This morning, after only seven laps, I crashed exiting Siberia. It was one of the biggest highsides of my career and I think I went up a long way before hitting the track. I was lucky not to break anything but I hurt my left shoulder and my right foot, which is a bit of a problem because I use the rear brake quite a bit. The crash ended the session for me, but fortunately I was able to get out in the afternoon, put in some laps and get a time. Once again, I completed seven laps and ended 12th fastest overall.
“It was a shame because, up until the crash, we had been heading in the right direction with the bike once more. We'd changed the set-up just before the crash, but we'll have to look at the telemetry before we draw any conclusions. In the afternoon we went back to the original setup—the one we'd used in testing—to make sure of a decent lap time. I'm sorry for all the work I've caused the mechanics, but hopefully I will feel better tomorrow morning and we can get back to improving the bike.”
World Superbike Phillip Island Friday Provisional Qualifying results:
1. Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Aprilia 1:31.317
2. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aprilia 1:31.392
3. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW 1:31.539
4. Leon Camier (GBR) Suzuki 1:31.608
5. Chaz Davies (GBR) BMW 1:31.638
6. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda 1:31.687
7. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1:31.754
8. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Aprilia 1:31.793
9. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia 1:31.863
10. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda 1:31.884
11. Jamie Stauffer (AUS) Honda 1:31.984
12. Carlos Checa (SPA) Ducati 1:32.063
13. Max Neukirchner (GER) Ducati 1:32.243
14. Glen Allerton (AUS) BMW 1:32.352
15. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki 1:32.497
16. Ayrton Badovini (ITA) Ducati 1:32.540
17. Ivan Clementi (ITA) BMW 1:32.757
18. Jules Cluzel (FRA) Suzuki 1:32.801
19. Federico Sandi (ITA) Kawasaki 1:32.898
20. Vittorio Iannuzzo (ITA) BMW 1:33.082
21. Alexander Lundh (SWE) Kawasaki 1:33.305