Team Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra rider Max Biaggi and stand-in Max Neukirchner endured difficult conditions in the first qualifying session at Magny-Cours this afternoon at the final round of the World Superbike Championship.
Just as the session began, light rain began to fall, making the 4.411 kilometre circuit very slippery in places. Although the rain soon stopped, most riders stayed in the garages and waited for the track to dry out before trying to set a fast qualifying time.
Neukirchner, deputising for injured Yukio Kagayama, managed to go out and complete a lap in 1:42.397 to end the day 13th quickest overall, whilst Max Biaggi set a lap of 1:42.620 and finished 14th overall. Neither rider wanted to take any risks, on a track that was still damp in places, so took things steadily instead.Italian Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati) posted the day's fastest time in qualifying with a lap of 1:40.962 with Troy Bayliss (Ducati) second and Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha) third.
Max Neukirchner, "Even before the conditions worsened in the afternoon, I wanted to ride steadily and get to know the bike and the team. The Alstare Suzuki K7 feels very different to my K6 and works much better in all areas. The chassis, engine and brakes are wonderful and I found it quite easy to get a good rhythm in the morning untimed session. I spent the day learning the bike and also the team. I know that this is not going to be an easy weekend so I have to try and get a lot of work done very quickly. In qualifying this afternoon, the track never completely dried out and because the new parts of tarmac are very dark, it was impossible to see how wet it was in places. I didn't want to crash so I took it pretty steadily this afternoon, knowing that tomorrow we will see a big improvement."
Max Biaggi, 'I know I have been here before but the conditions - and the bike - were very different then. That was about a year ago, so basically I started afresh here today. At the moment I a still trying to learn the secrets of the track but once I do that, I can push a lot harder. We started today with our Vallelunga set-up but it didn't really work, so we will make changes for tomorrow. This afternoon it wasn't necessary to take any risks so I just rode steadily and tried to get us much info as possible to help us tomorrow.'