Italian takes two fastest laps of the qualifying shootout, ahead of Rea and Laverty
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) extended his brilliant Friday form into the first ever qualifying session of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship in South America, taking pole position by a whopping 0.440 seconds ahead of Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia), with three different machines completing the debut front row for the Circuito San Juan Villicum.
Rea and Melandri had both shined in free practice on Friday and continued to show on Saturday how quickly they’ve found their feet at the new Argentinian track, setting the fastest times at the beginning of the Superpole 2 session.
After the mid-session pit entry and tyre change, the pair set out with at best two laps to one-up the other. Melandri was first to strike, improving on Rea’s previous best of 1’39.452. With seconds left on the clock, this time there would be no fightback from the Northern Irishman: the champion struggled with the grip on his ZX-10RR going into turn 1, losing several seconds and leaving him without an answer to the Italian’s finesse. As it happened, the Italian went on to improve his lap again, leaving qualifying with a best of 1’39.012.
Laverty bounced up to third in the dying seconds of the session, ending Superpole 2 just 78 thousandths of a second behind Rea and sandwiched between the two KRT riders, as Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) made it into fourth position on the grid after qualifying through Superpole 1. It’s only the third time this year that the 2013 World Champion has missed out on the front row of the grid.
Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) was the leading independent rider in qualifying, ending the 15-minute shootout in fifth position, with Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) closing the second row in sixth. His teammate Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team)¸ who was also forced to tackle his way through Superpole 1, starts from 11th.
Row three sees Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) in seventh – his best qualifying performance in World Superbike – Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) in eighth, and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) down in ninth. The Welshman encountered a technical issue in his final flying lap, and faces an uphill battle in Race One after finishing FP4 in second.
Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) closes out the top ten, with local hero Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) twelfth in his first Superpole 2 appearance of 2018.
Race One begins at 16:00 local time (19:00 GMT), live from Argentina! Catch the race and all of the action from the weekend thanks to WorldSBK VideoPass.