Pushing the works ZX-10R Ninja all-out, Sykes took his eighth Pole of the season, turning a lap at 1:41.415 around the hilly, 15 turn, 4.592 km Portimao venue. At one point Sykes skirted the very edge of the circuit’s curb, right against the Astroturf run-off area, while exiting the final turn at the top of fourth gear, at well over 180 kph.
Second on the grid belongs to a resurgent Carlos Checa on the Althea Ducati 1098R, the reigning World Champ setting a best lap of 1:41.780. All of the best times were set on special soft Pirelli slicks, with tomorrow’s race pace lap times expected to be in the 1:43 bracket.
The third best time was set by Eugene Laverty, who lapped at 1:41.789 on the first of the works supported Aprilia RSV4 Factory machines. Laverty was the last rider to get under the 1:42 barrier.
The fourth fastest rider, completing the front row grid for tomorrow’s pair of 22 lap races, is Marco Melandri, who did a best lap of 1:42.015 on the works BMW S1000RR. Fifth best, on pole for row two, was Max Biaggi on the second Aprilia, with a lap at 1:42.140.
In the fight for the 2012 eni Superbike World Championship, former Champ Biaggi heads the standings with 318 points, followed by Melandri at 308.5 and Sykes with a total of 291.5 points. There are 100 potential points up for grabs in the remaining four races of the tour.
“Honestly, our race set-up isn’t quite acceptable yet, but the qualifying tire certainly improved the bike,” started Sykes, to wild applause, at the post race Press Conference. “We’ll go over our data again, and there is more to come for the race. We had some unexpected issues at the last race at the Nurburgring, but I think we should be OK here tomorrow.”
“We’ve been struggling here this weekend,” explained Checa, who won at Portimao last year. “We got many of our problems fixed, and our stability and drive is much better now. We didn’t expect to be on the front row, so this is a good start.”
OF the front row qualifiers, only Laverty seemed confident about his set-up choices for the two races. “This is one of our best weekends so far,” explained the Irish rising star. “Really, qualifying up front is great, but I think we are all set for the races.”
“I’m happy with fourth,” confirmed Melandri, coming off two tumbles while running up front at the most recent German round. “We’ve struggled with a single lap, and I’m still not happy yet with our pace on race tires either. We will see what we can do before the race.”