The British GSX-R1000 piloted headed the time sheets in the first wet session of the event after two solid days of dry and sunny conditions. Watched by an impressively strong spectator turn-out, many arriving on two wheels, Camier turned the fastest lap of the brief 15 minute session with a 1:54.204.
Second best was Superbike World Championship points leader Max Biaggi, turning a lap at 1:54.310, right with Camier. “Roman Emperor” Biaggi looked solid in the wet, and should be on the move from his third row grid position in both of today’s 23 lap races.
BMW’s Marco Melandri, third in the standings and close enough to win if Biaggi hits serious trouble, netted third best lap time at 1:54.846. His team-mate Leon Haslam was right behind on the second works S1000RR with a tour of 1:54.947.
Fifth belonged to the works Honda of Jonathan Rea at 1:55.039, followed by Davide Giugliano on the first of the five Ducati machines entered, turning a best lap of 1:55.394 on the Althea 1098R entry.
Teen-aged series rookie Loris Baz, the rain ace defiantly the “home town” hero at Magny-Cours, was next up in seventh aboard his works Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja. His team-mate, pole sitter and second in the standings Tom Sykes, was right behind in eighth at 1:55.624.
Sykes, victorious in the rain two weeks ago in Portugal, is expected to go all-out for the opening race win to try and force a Championship decider in today’s second race. Biaggi will likely take a cautious approach and try to sew up his second SBK title.
Canadian series rookie Brett McCormick of Saskatchewan in on hand in France, but not racing due to the withdrawal of his regular Team Liberty Effenbert Racing Ducati squad. McCormick earned a breakthrough fifth place finish in changing conditions at the recent Portuguese opening race.
“In the warm-up, Biaggi was fast, he looked comfortable,” reflected McCormick. “Obviously, Camier was on it, and he wants to show how far the Suzuki has progressed. But Sykes didn’t look like his regular self, and that the reverse of the usual – normally Sykes is on it, and Biaggi is careful in the rain.”
As far as the track conditions are concerned, McCormick suggests that “I think it will start drying out – there could be a dry line by the end of the first race.”