2001 champion Troy Bayliss
(Ducati Xerox) made a sensational return to World Superbikes by powering to
the top of the timesheets in the opening qualifying session of 2006 at the
Losail International Circuit in Qatar. Both the morning's free practice
session and afternoon qualifying were held in wet and rainy conditions, but
the 36 year-old Australian was in terrific form on his Xerox Ducati 999, and
he ended the session a full 1.7 seconds ahead of second-placed Régis Laconi
"I'm not surprised to be up at the front to be honest" declared Troy,
"and I'm really pleased with the way it went because it was the first time I
've tried the Pirelli wets and I was happy with them. The bike worked well
and we're still using the basic set-up we've had since testing started. I
expected to go a little bit faster before the end when we had an
intermediate in the rear. Maybe it would have been OK if I had stayed out
longer but I didn't give it enough chance and put a harder rain tyre on
which wasn't quite as good as what I did two-thirds through the session. But
all in all it turned out well and I hope we're finished with the rain for
this weekend and can move on to some dry weather".
Lorenzo Lanzi, who preferred not to go out in the morning's free
practice session, was not entirely at ease in today's wet and slippery
conditions. The Italian recorded a time of 2m26.171s, which put him in a
provisional 27th slot.
"I didn't want to push too hard on the first day" declared Lorenzo,
"because I'm pretty sure tomorrow it will be dry. I know that's not much of
an excuse because we're in a world championship and so you should be present
in all conditions, but it was the first day and I didn't want to crash or do
anything silly. It was difficult out there, you could lap quicker in the wet
than on the damp track so I started off slowly just to check the conditions.
Then when I began to push harder the track dried and it was slippery to the
point that virtually no one was able to improve in the final part of the
session. The other guys went out in the morning session and I didn't so I
wasn't quite on the pace today but tomorrow for sure I will be present".
Karl Muggeridge - SBK Winston Ten Kate Honda Rider;
"Not the best start but the good thing is we tried something we had never tried before in the wet. In the beginning it was not too bad, but in the end, when the track dried out, the feeling was terrible. By that stage, we had no time left to change. So we crossed paths, but we know how to improve in the dry tomorrow. I am not too bothered about today, the bike is running well and we are looking to tomorrow. No drama."
James Toseland - SBK Winston Ten Kate Honda Rider;
"It took me a little while to get used to the conditions today. We put a softer spring in and put the ride height up, but maybe a bit too much. Going into the corners we had very little grip. We just ran out of time at the end to adjust the bike, and when you don't have the right set-up in those conditions life is very difficult. To only be four seconds off, the way I was sliding and struggling, I felt that I would be ten seconds off. Tomorrow should be dry and Saturday the same, but even if it is wet, we now know how adjust the bike to suit now."
Alex Barros: "Whether rain or sunshine - I accept the conditions as they
are. In the desert you don't expect rain and in the Free Practice this
morning I had to get to know the Klaffi Fireblade on a wet track. In the
afternoon things worked out very well. It was quite okay - I'm content
with the result of the first day!"
Craig Jones said: "I was pleased with the way this morning went and to get a feel for it straight away. It was awesome to be so high up so early and it was a big confidence booster to be ahead of the likes of Barros. That really gets your blood pumping. We had a stability problem this afternoon that we hadn't managed to dial out from the morning session. I am hoping it will be dry tomorrow so that I can find a set-up, get stuck in and show what I can do."
Steve Martin said: "I was happy with the handling of the bike when it was very wet. However, we hadn't really run this new engine configuration in those conditions and we found some problems with the set-up. We know we can fix them and know which direction to go in, by adding some more weight to the front to make steer better. It was good to get the first day of the new season out of the way and I can't wait for tomorrow."
- 1. Bayliss (Ducati Xerox) 2m17.326s
- 2. Laconi (Kawasaki) 2m19.064s
- 3. Corser (Suzuki) 2m19.614s
- 4. Walker (Kawasaki) 2m19.684s
- 5. Gimbert (Yamaha) 2m19.687s
- 6. Barros (Honda) 2m19.834s
- 7. Pitt (Yamaha) 2m19.991s
- 8. Haga (Yamaha) 2m20.164s
- 9. Battaini (Kawasaki) 2m20.200s
- 10 Nieto (Kawasaki) 2m20.469s