World Superbike Jerez - Baz quickest on Friday

Loris Baz leads the way into Saturday's Superpole ahead of a very tight field, with a little over half a second separating the top 11 riders

world superbike jerez friday practice loris baz

The first WSBK free-practice sessions in Jerez did not crown an overwhelming favorite ahead of tomorrow's Superpole. Loris Baz topped the combined rankings with a 1:42.677 posted during FP2, but only half a second separates the first eleven riders (representing five different manufacturers) in the time sheets.

“Lap times are always quite narrow on this track,” said the Frenchman. “We got off a good start, but I still need to improve overall consistency on used tires. As the track gets progressively hotter, the grip level drops. I think tomorrow, during FP3, when temperatures are cooler, we'll see a significant improvement. I'll work with the team to find more rear grip. The title fight is basically over, even though you never know what can happen, but my only goal is to win as many races as possible before the end of the season.”

With only three rounds left on the calendar after the cancellation of the South African Grand Prix, Tom Sykes' odds for back-to-back world titles look strong. To further boost his candidacy, the Kawasaki rider posted the third-best time, 0.136 seconds behind his teammate, controlling with apparent ease his closer opponents in the rankings. Sylvain Guintoli, who is second in the championship but 44 points behind the Brit with only 100 left for grabs, is currently eight in the combined rankings. Jonathan Rea, third in the championship, posted the tenth-best time.

“As usual, I focus on race pace on Friday,” Guintoli said. “We're not that far off. I reckon the setup we used in Portimão, which is kind of different from my usual parameters, works well here, too. I just need a little more confidence to push, but we're all very close.”

“Today’s been very productive for us,” Rea echoed. “We had a little problem but FP2 was good and we were able to try a new weight distribution on the CBR. Also, Nissin have brought some new brake components for me to test and I’m finding a really positive feeling with that. My team worked hard on a new engine specification during the break, and I’m still getting used to that as it has a quite different power character.”

Aside from his teammate, Sykes' biggest opponent so far was Aprilia rider Marco Melandri. The Italian was the only one able to lap in the low 1:43 consistently together with the reigning world champion, but did not seem keen to receive team orders after the mishap in Portimão, where Guintoli took him off. “I can only tackle one race at a time and try to win as many as possible,” Melandri, who posted the second-best time, said. “I'm not fighting for the title, and I can't worry about other riders. I was a little anxious as we've been idle for quite a while, but my feeling on the RSV4 was excellent from the very beginning. The whole team clearly did not forget how to work during the long break.”

Considering also Ducati and Suzuki's competitiveness, tomorrow's Superpole may be one of the closest, toughest of the season. Sykes holds a firm lead, but most other riders have little or nothing to lose. Come racing time, the Spanish track may resemble a bullring.

World Superbike Jerez Friday practice results:

Pos. Rider Country Machine Time
1. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki 1:42.677
2. Marco Melandri (ITA) Aprilia 1:42.768
3. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1:42.813
4. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda 1:42.881
5. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati 1:42.896
6. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Suzuki 1:42.899
7. Chaz Davies (GBR) Ducati 1:42.916
8. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia 1:42.995
9. Toni Elias (SPA) Aprilia 1:43.067
10. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda 1:43.079
11. Alex Lowes (GBR) Suzuki 1:43.204
12. Alessandro Andreozzi (ITA) Kawasaki EVO 1:44.031
13. Sylvain Barrier (FRA) BMW EVO 1:44.343
14. David Salom (SPA) Kawasaki EVO 1:44.363
15. Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Ducati EVO 1:44.389
16. Sheridan Morias (RSA) Kawasaki EVO 1:44.468
17. Claudio Corti (ITA) MV Agusta 1:44.860
18. Jeremy Guarnoni (FRA) Kawasaki EVO 1:44.919
19. Bryan Staring (AUS) Kawasaki EVO 1:45.133
20. Imre Toth (HUN) BMW 1:46.087
21. Geoff May (USA) EBR 1:46.614
22. Gabor Rizmayer (HUN) BMW EVO 1:46.657
23. Luca Scassa (ITA) Kawasaki EVO 1:47.525
24. Aaron Yates (USA) EBR 1:47.617