From SBK Press Office:
Bayliss In Blistering Form
The reigning World Champion continued his dominance of the 2002 season by setting the early pace at Laguna Seca, round nine on the 13 round World Championship trail.
The Australian, a former AMA competitor for a short time in the 2000 season, suffered a mechanical problem, which stranded him out on the track at one stage, during what proved to be a halted and re-started first qualifying session.
Temperatures of almost 30°C welcomed all the SBK competitors, with track temperatures reading 53°C at some points.'
A tough first session was made tougher when gravel on the track caused the short halt in proceedings, after which a blizzard of increasingly quick times saw the top ten order change minute by minute.
Bayliss' best lap of 1'25"127 was a new qualifying record, and the pace of competition was such that he was joined in the 1'25s by another four riders.
Ben Bostrom (L&M Ducati), the previous qualifying record holder, was second by a narrow margin of 0.106 seconds.
Neil Hodgson (HM Plant Ducati) took third, over half a second slower than Bayliss, with local Suzuki rider Mat Mladin, an inspired fourth fastest after a hard domestic season so far.
Semi-permanent SBK entrant and full-time AMA Superbike competitor Eric Bostrom (Kawasaki Racing Team) took fifth place, with Aprilia factory rider Noriyuki Haga displaying all the track knowledge that has delivered him two previous wins at Laguna to go sixth overall.
Aaron Yates (Suzuki) was a popular seventh after the first hour of qualifying, while 2000 World Champion Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda) went eighth, decked out in a special Laguna livery of stars and stripes.
An excellent ride from old SBK stager Pierfrancesco Chili (NCR Ducati) gave him a provisional ninth place on the grid, with local HMC Ducati rider Doug Chandler the last man inside the top ten.
James Toseland, who's spare machine suffered a serious crash in the untimed morning session, scored 11th on his HM Plant Ducati, ahead of a somewhat subdued Nicky Hayden (Honda), the highest ranked AMA rider in his own domestic championship.
Steve Martin (DFX Pirelli Ducati) was a heartening 13th after day one, unlike factory Ducati pilot Ruben Xaus, out of sorts in 14th.
Chris Walker (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Lucio Pedercini (Pedercini Ducati) scored the last two provisional Superpole qualifying positions, with one more hour-long qualifying session to come on Saturday morning.
Wild card riders Miguel Duhamel (Honda) and Anthony Gobert (Yamaha) failed to qualify for Superpole, in 17th and 24th places respectively.
The factory Suzuki of Gregorio Lavilla, also failed to make the early cut, finishing 18th, with the Benelli triple of Peter Goddard in 20th. All 30 SBK entrants qualified after the first day.
More, from HM Plant Ducati:
California drama for HM Plant Ducati
The first day's track action at the stunning Laguna Seca Raceway in California was a dramatic, yet successful affair for Neil Hodgson and James Toseland. The HM Plant Ducati riders both qualified with ease, but the two sessions were not without incident, most notably for Toseland who crashed in morning practice. Despite everything, Toseland still qualified a solid 11th, while his team-mate made it to third on the provisional grid, fractionally behind the factory Ducatis of Laguna specialist Ben Bostrom (second) and reigning World Champion Troy Bayliss (pole).
Hodgson loves the demanding Laguna Seca layout and had been consistently fast throughout the day. After missing a considerable amount of track time due to minor technical problems early in the afternoon session, he put in an extremely determined performance to grab a provisional front row start with his best lap time of 1:25.721.
"To be honest, I've had a pretty frustrating day," said Hodgson. "Losing all that track time didn't do me any favours and then I made a mistake on my fast lap. My Chief Engineer Roberto Bonazzi sorted the HM Plant Ducati immediately, so it was just down to my slip up that my time wasn't better. There's a lot more to come from me on Saturday. The HM Plant Ducati is working perfectly now and the conditions are excellent, so I'm just going to get my head down and go for it. To be third at this early stage is good, but that's not the point. I want to win this thing."
Toseland's day got off to a bad start when he fell victim to oil on the track and the resulting crash caused his bike to burst in to flames. The #52 Ducati 998 F01 was entirely destroyed in the fire.
"It's just been one of those days for me," said the 21-year-old Yorkshireman. "Somebody's bike was leaking oil and when I hit a patch the front just went away from me and there was nothing I could do to stop it. We don't have the parts with us to rebuild it, so it looks like I'm down to just one bike for the rest of the weekend. I'm going to have to take things extra carefully from now on because I've got the second qualifying session, Superpole and two races to get through. If I bash this bike up, I'm out of the event. I should be OK though – I'll just get into Superpole and take it from there."
More, from Aprilia:
HAGA AIMING FOR GLORY AT LAGUNA SECA
Laguna Seca (United States), Friday 12 July 2002 -
The Superbike World Championship crosses the ocean and Laguna Seca (California) becomes the most exciting rendezvous of the season. Six of the finest US series talents join this year's leading lights as wild cards at the ninth round of the championship. This can only make Noriyuki Haga and the Playstation2 - FGF Aprilia Team's task that bit more difficult. The precedents, however, are very comforting: the RSV Mille came first in 2000 with Troy Corser, while Nitro-Nori (not in the race last year) can boast two victories on this difficult track, where he has always put on an amazing show.
In the first tests, Haga achieved an encouraging sixth place despite the fact that a harmless slide in the morning made work on the settings that much more complicated. The final starting-grid positions will be decided in the Superpole slated for tomorrow at 4 p.m. local time, 1 a.m. in Central Europe.
NORIYUKI HAGA (Playstation2 - FGF Aprilia Team rider) - "There was lots of traffic and I wasn't able to make a full lap as I'd have liked. We've still got some way to go, and the RSV still isn't quite behaving as I'd like it to, but I'm confident: I love Laguna Seca and it seems just the place for Aprilia. Pity about the slide in the free practice this morning, but the front seized up without warning and there was nothing I could do about it."
GIACOMO GUIDOTTI - "The placing is just fine - we've got two wild cards in front who know this track to perfection and I don't think they've got much room for improvement. We do, though, and we're working on the suspension and on the settings. Haga's given us some very precise references: the front drive unit tends to come up too quickly on the straights, while he doesn't feel sure when shutting down the throttle. We'll try to solve this problem by making a few changes. We've already done a long-distance test with a rear tyre that gave us some very positive results. It's a tough race, but we're optimistic and we think we'll be able to have a say in how things go."
More, from Kawasaki:
ERIC BOSTROM CALLED UP FOR FACTORY KAWASAKI RIDE AT LAGUNA SECA
Eric Bostrom has once again been drafted into the Kawasaki Racing Team, this time for round nine of the World Superbike Championship at Laguna Seca Raceway, USA. The 26-year-old Californian will substitute for the still injured Hitoyasu Izutsu aboard the factory Kawasaki ZX-7RR.
Laguna Seca marks Bostrom's third outing on the factory Kawasaki and, after scoring two impressive fifth place finishes in this event last year, the reigning AMA Supersport 600 Champion is sure to be on the pace and mixing it with the WSB regulars again this weekend.
Visiting Laguna Seca for the first time, regular Fuchs Kawasaki rider, Chris Walker, wasted no time in familiarising himself with the Californian circuit. Within ten minutes of arriving in the paddock, the 30-year-old British rider had changed into running kit and set off for a couple of laps of the track. He returned to the paddock impressed with what he'd seen.
'This circuit looks awesome, especially the infamous corkscrew' said Walker. 'The camber changes from corner to corner and, during the first free practice session at least, I expect it will be the guys with the best circuit knowledge - who know how to use the changes in camber to best effect - that will put in the fastest laps.'
'Having Eric back in the team for this weekend is sure to be a big help; he certainly knows his way around the Laguna circuit, as he proved with two good results at this round last year,' added Walker.
More, from Castrol Honda:
CASTROL HONDA TEAM
EDWARDS EIGHTH IN FRIDAY ACTION
Castrol Honda's Colin Edwards finished in eighth place in today's opening qualifying session for round nine of the World Superbike championship here at a sweltering Laguna Seca, USA circuit.
Edwards was one of nine riders to lap inside the existing lap record for the 2.24-mile circuit and remains upbeat about his chances.
"We're doing OK," said Edwards. "Towards the end of the session we were testing some tyres and just ran out of time to get the fast lap in. I'll be fine tomorrow and I know what lap time I can do after doing a 1m 25.4s lap this morning."
He added: "The machine's working well around here and I'm feeling good so It's just a case of getting the machine into race trim in tomorrow morning1s session and working on a race tyre and a tyre for tomorrow afternoon's Superpole."
Edwards also used the new Laguna Seca livery on his Castrol Honda for the first time in the qualifying session.
He commented: "I know there's a big crowd here today but I'm sure the fans will love the bodywork when they all pour in for the races on Sunday."
ALL CHANGE FOR CASTROL HONDA'S EDWARDS
Castrol Honda's Colin Edwards unveiled a new livery for his SP-2 World Superbike machine at Laguna Seca, USA on Friday, to celebrate his home round of the championship.
The SP-2 was dressed with a stars and stripes theme after the opening free practice session on Friday morning at the Californian circuit.
After a lunchtime press conference, Edwards explained: "It's great that the team have done this for my home race. I know that both Castrol and Honda are big players in the North American business market so I think there were lots of positive reasons to do this."
Castrol Honda team manager Neil Tuxworth added: "The Castrol Honda World Superbike team partnership is nine years old now and the two names have formed a brand on its own."
He continued: "We know how much this event means to both Castrol and Honda so it's really good to be able to do something different."
The final design for the machine was chosen by Edwards himself, from a shortlist of three.
Tuxworth concluded: "Originally six designs were sent to Castrol North America and American Honda and they sent the three back, from which Colin chose the design for this weekend."
More, from Ducati NCR:
DUCATI NCR TEAM
CHILI SETS NINTH PLACE AT LAGUNA
IN THE FIRST PRACTICE DAY
The challenge USA vs World Superbike see WSBK riders prevail after the opening qualifying session with Troy Bayliss who set the fastest time. Against the best AMA Championship heroes Frankie Chili took a very good ninth place on his 998 NCR Ducati Axo, the last of the leading riders to beat the existing official lap record for the 2.24 mile circuit near Monterey.
"I'm quite satisfied of today's qualifying, also if not 100%, - said Chili at the end of practice - "My 998 NCR Ducati Axo performs well, only there are some moment when the engine look to fail and looking at the data recorder we have not the same result as my feeling. The front is too light and loses the line outing the corners when I open the throttle. When I'll have settled those particulars I'm confident to be faster. At the moment I'm not too far from the top and I'm confident to get some position, also because on this track is very important to take a good start, in order to avoid the bottleneck at the #3 corner at the first lap."
Broc Parkes is not in the first half of the grid, but today the team worked a lot to select a good race tyres set for the 998 NCR Ducati Parmalat and the young talented Aussie is sure to do better tomorrow: "Today we concentrated on race tyres and when I try a qualifying tyres set it didn't run well, but I'm not too worried. The machine is very fast, at the same level as the leaders and so I'm really confident for tomorrow final qualifying."
More, from Alstare Suzuki:
TEAM ALSTARE SUZUKI
Gregorio Lavilla: "I'm not so happy today _ with eighteenth quickest _ and even though six strong locals are ahead of me, I still wanted to do better. We arrived here with some new rear links to try out and we spent a lot of time working with them and trying to improve traction and find a better feeling with the rear shock. I was quite happy in untimed qualifying, but when we put on qualifying tyres to go for a quick time, the bike just didn't feel the same and I couldn't push hard. We don't understand why the bike behaves so differently with qualifying tyres, but we have to use them when we are trying to get a quick lap. We need more time to work with these new links and maybe then we can improve the whole package. Today was a bit frustrating, so I hope tomorrow will be better."
More, from Ducati:
TEAM DUCATI INFOSTRADA
Troy Bayliss: "I had a crash this morning on some oil, but I knew I could go a lot quicker in the afternoon. The whole session went quite well, we put a couple of qualifiers on at the end and everything was pretty good. I thoughy there's no reason why a couldn't be fast this weekend. Anthony's time has been around for a long time, but finally I managed to go quicker. I think there's more to come tomorrow but for the moment it's a lot better than I've ever done here before. I got on the pace pretty quick today and there were no real dramas. I've got to get the race tyre working a little better, even tought we did a lot of laps on today but in the heat the tyre seems to work very good so I'm happy."
Ruben Xaus: "We need to work for tomorrow and try and do a bit better. Today there were no real problems but I was just unable tp get the right feeling with the bike and the circuit. Hopefully things will improve tomorrow when I can do some more laps and get used the circuit."
TEAM DUCATI L & M
Ben Bostrom: "Despite being second quickest, I don't feel entirely comfortable with the bike. We've still got a lot of work to do both on the bike and probably on myself before I can feel ready for the race. Today I didn't start off very fast but hopefully we can get dialled in right away for tomorrow and get on the pace. I expected to be up today but I expected Troy to be up there as well. Tomorrow's a new day and we'll see how it goes."
More, from Suzuki: TEAM BLIMPIE YOSHIMURA SUZUKI
Mathew Mladin: "I couldn't try any harder than that. We made an improvement on the bike today with some adjustments to the rear shock which made the bike better. Fourth place on the first day of qualifying against these guys is a good start, especially as we weren't allowed out in the morning warm up session. The team has worked hard to get two different spec bikes ready for us this weekend and I hope to be able to reward them with some good results."
More, from Benelli:
BENELLI SPORT TEAM
Benelli Sport battle on in the heat at Laguna Seca
The Benelli Sport team are back at Laguna Seca, the track where Peter Goddard and the Benelli Tornado secured their first ever world championship points in the Superbike series last July.
The first day of qualifying ended with disappointment when Goddard made a miscalculation as the session came to a close. "I thought I had enough time to come in and put on another qualifier," explained the Australian, "but actually I should have stayed out there and put in another fast lap as once I was in, I realised that didn1t have enough time left to get out again. But I'm hoping I1ll be able to get it right on Saturday and shave some time off my lap for a better grid position." Goddard ended the session back in twentieth.
The Benelli Tornado will soon receive some modifications, which Benelli Sport are working on now and may be ready in time for Brands Hatch. "The team are working hard to get more speed from the motor and at the same time to reduce the weight of the bike," commented Goddard.
With only just over one year of racing the Benelli Tornado is still a relatively new racing machine, especially when compared to the leading machines which have spent many years in multimillion dollar development. But team owner Andrea Merloni remains committed to the project, and he's determined to see the bike gradually turned into a truly competetive racing motorcycle.