Tom Sykes ended 2012’s first official World Superbike by surprising everybody, taking his factory Kawasaki ZX-10R to the fastest time of the two-day test.
He was mere hundredths faster than 2011 champ Carlos Checa on the Althea Ducati 1098R (back-door factory team, really), no surprise there, but third, a 10th and a bit back, was another bit of a surprise, as Jakob Smrz on one of the Liberty racing Team Effenbert 1098Rs.
Jonathon Rea (Castrol Honda) and Max Biaggi (Aprilia) rounded out the top five.
The top 12 were all within one second, so the series is already looking as competitive as was hoped.
Injuries are already having an effect, however. As we’ve reported, John Hopkins is out with yet more breaks to his damaged right hand, and his Crescent Suzuki spot will be taken over by regular Australian wild card Josh Brookes. BMW’s Leon Haslam also had a nasty high-side, breaking bones in one ankle and tibia; the tough Brit is looking for surgery on Thursday and getting back on the bike for practice and qualifying Friday. That seems a bit optimistic, but more power to him.
Another top entrant already riding hurt is Eugene Laverty, partnering Biaggi on the Aprilia factory team. He broke a bone in his left hand, and while he hopes to ride on the weekend, sat out the second qualifying day.