BAYLISS AND FABRIZIO BATTLE AGAINST THE ELEMENTS AT THE LOSAIL INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT
Losail (Qatar), Thursday 21st February: Bayliss and Fabrizio (Ducati Xerox) faced difficult climactic conditions today as the 2008 World Superbike championship officially got underway. Winds of up to 40 km/h meant that riders were unable to record any particularly fast laps and the morning practice session was instead used to check the settings of the new Ducati 1098 F08 machines. The afternoon qualifying session went ahead in similar conditions at the Losail International Circuit with both riders attempting to improve on the times recorded in the morning.
Troy Bayliss 1m59.8s
"I'm reasonably happy with how it went today but we all found it tough and every lap had to be ridden in a different way simply due to the conditions. The wind meant that I was never completely comfortable and there is only so much we can do to change the settings of the bike because conditions may be different again tomorrow. Looking at this weekend's entry list I reckon it's going to be a very competitive championship this year, we're a strong field and I'm looking forward to the competition!"
Michel Fabrizio 2m00.9s
"It was very difficult out there today and although sand on the track wasn't such a problem, I wasn't totally confident on the bike with the strong winds. Having said that, there were several of us who were lapping around the 2 minute mark so we were all having similar problems with the weather I think. We've changed a few settings on the bike throughout the day and I hope that we can make better progress tomorrow."
Good start for Suzuki Alstare in Qatar
Despite the incredibly strong winds at the Doha circuit in Qatar today, Team Suzuki Alstare riders Fonsi Nieto and Yukio Kagayama acquitted themselves very well indeed, finishing with the third and fifth fastest times overall. Team Alstare Suzuki rider Max Neukirchner experienced some handling problems, but also didn't want to risk anything in the difficult conditions, so he kept things steady and finished tenth today. Aussie Troy Corser (Yamaha) ended first qualifying with the day's fastest lap, 1:59.627, two tenths of a second quicker than his fellow countryman Troy Bayliss (Ducati). Fonsi had been fastest in the morning untimed practice session and ended third quickest in the afternoon, with Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha) fourth. Just behind Haga, was Yukio, with Ruben Xaus (Ducati) rounding out the top six.
Fonsi 3rd, 2:00.307
I'm happy with the first day of practice here in Qatar and think that what we did today was a good result. It was hard today because of the very strong wind and, because the wind was not consistent, it made things quite difficult today. I'm particularly happy because Corser, Bayliss and Haga all tested here recently, so to be up with them today is very satisfying. Both the wind and the sand make it easy to miss your line and once that happens you lose time. We did a lot of good work on the bike today and hope to carry that on tomorrow. I hope that the wind is not so strong and we can make good progress throughout the day.
Yukio 5th, 2:00.599
The wind today was unbelievable! I don't think I've ever raced in such strong winds before and certainly not winds that stayed at the same strength all day. It made many parts of the track a problem, especially the second last corner for me. I think the wind pushed me off line five times in five laps at that turn and that meant that I lost time. Also, I was hit in the visor many times by small stones and that made life a bit interesting! For tomorrow, I think we'll keep the same chassis set-up, but make some adjustments to the engine and the electronics to make the bike smoother and easier to ride. I just hope the wind is not so bad!
Max 10th, 2:00.904
It was very windy out there today and I had many problems in many parts of the track because of that. It was not easy braking for the turns because sometimes the wind was behind you, sometimes across you and sometimes in your front! The last four turns were a particular problem for me and I know that I lost quite a bit of time there. But despite all that we did some good work today and found a good direction for the bike. Unlike most of the other riders here, this is my first time at the track since the race last year, so I have some catching-up to do. I hope the wind is not so strong tomorrow so that I can push harder and and improve my time.
If you can't race fast, atleast you can look fast...