Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda) was the man to watch in Friday’s first qualifying session at Imola as the Northern Irish rider powered to a time of 1 minute 48.241 seconds, just a fraction away from the 2010 best lap set by Carlos Checa. On a hot day of qualifying, with temperatures almost reaching 30 degrees C, there wasn’t much in it at the very top, however, as Althea Racing Ducati man Checa (last year’s double winner and favourite for this year’s title) finished just a tenth away from Rea, and in second place. For the first time this season Rea was running a ride-by-wire throttle control system on his Honda machine, after a recent change to the technical rules in the Superbike class.
Third place on the provisional grid went to Britain’s Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport), who took his S1000RR close to the leading duo after looking competitive right throughout the hour. Leon was followed home in fourth by Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare), who also looked at ease on the newly resurfaced Imola track.
Fifth was the other title contender Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike), who got home ahead of Nürburgring winner and last year’s Imola poleman Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Superbike). Frenchmen Sylvain Guintoli (Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducati) and Maxime Berger (Supersonic Ducati) completed the provisional second row.
The virtual third row after the first qualifying session featured four riders who were all within a second of leader Rea, the first of them being Noriyuki Haga (Pata Racing Aprilia), followed by Guintoli’s team-mate, Jakub Smrz. Local wildcard Federico Sandi (Althea Racing Ducati) was an impressive 11th fastest, followed home by another local for the Barni Racing Ducati team, Alessandro Polita.
Lone works Aprilia Alitalia rider Leon Camier was 13th, but still only just over a second from Rea out front. BMW Motorrad Italia SBK’s replacement for the recently retired James Toseland, Javier Fores, was 22nd in his first ever WSBK ride.
Times: 1. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 1'48.241; 2. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 1'48.400; 3. Haslam L. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 1'48.701; 4. Fabrizio M. (ITA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'48.726; 5. Melandri M. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R1 1'48.844; 6. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'48.884; 7. Guintoli S. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 1'49.003; 8. Berger M. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 1'49.023; 9. Haga N. (JPN) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'49.041; 10. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 1'49.072; 11. Sandi F. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1'49.125; 12. Polita A. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1'49.134; 13. Camier L. (GBR) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'49.282; 14. Badovini A. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 1'49.394; 15. Aitchison M. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'49.665; 16. Lascorz J. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'49.781; etc.
Luca Scassa (Yamaha ParkinGO) returned to the top of the timesheets at home at Imola with a time of 1 minute 52.375 seconds to head the overnight Supersport grid positions. The Italian was a fraction ahead of Broc Parkes (Kawasaki Motocard.com) and title favourite, team-mate Chaz Davies (Yamaha ParkinGO).
Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) ran top for some of the session but eventually finished fifth, while Sweden's Alex Lundh (Cresto Guide Honda) put in one of his best performances so far to take the next slot. Britain's Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) was fastest at one point in the session but a crash dropped him down to tenth.
Times: 1. Scassa L. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R6 1'52.375; 2. Parkes B. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX-6R 1'52.553; 3. Davies C. (GBR) Yamaha YZF R6 1'52.736; 4. Foret F. (FRA) Honda CBR600RR 1'53.056; 5. Lundh A. (SWE) Honda CBR600RR 1'53.301; 6. Marino F. (FRA) Honda CBR600RR 1'53.329; 7. Tamburini R. (ITA) Yamaha YZF R6 1'53.432; 8. Salom D. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-6R 1'53.471; etc.
All the main runners were up at the top in the Friday qualifying run, with newly-crowned Italian CIV Superstock 1000 champion Danilo Petrucci (Barni Racing Ducati) holding a slight edge over points leader Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing Ducati) with a time of 1 minute 51.046 seconds.
The two Ducati men were followed by another of this year's race winners, Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia STK) just a fraction behind, while Niccolò Canepa (Lazio Motorsport Ducati) completed the provisional front row. Lorenzo Zanetti (BMW Motorrad Italia STK team) in fifth was followed by three more Italians, Lorenzo Baroni (Althea Racing Ducati), Andrea Antonelli (Lorini Honda) and Michele Magnoni (Baru Racing Team BMW).
Times: 1. Petrucci D. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1'51.046; 2. Giugliano D. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1'51.204; 3. Barrier S. (FRA) BMW S1000 RR 1'51.220; 4. Canepa N. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1'51.674; 5. Zanetti L. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 1'51.904; 6. Baroni L. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 1'51.959; 7. Antonelli A. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 1'52.511; 8. Magnoni M. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 1'52.702; etc.