Steve qualifies in ninth for Qatar races
Steve Martin was within four hundredths of a second from starting the new Superbike World Championship from the second row of the Qatar grid.
The Foggy PETRONAS Racing rider was ninth fastest in Superpole, just 0.045 behind Yukio Kagayama in seventh, with Karl Muggeridge relegated to eighth place after crashing on his flying lap.
Steve's time of 2:00.940 was three seconds faster than his quickest lap at the Losail circuit last year, when neither FPR rider qualified for Superpole, providing an indication of the amount of progress the team has made in that period.
Steve said: "It has been a really good positive start for us. I still believe this is one of the hardest tracks for us, so to be where we are at this stage of the season is a good sign for the rest of the year. It's a credit to everyone involved in the project. We have been able to concentrate on the set-up of the bike today and we are still working on rear tyre grip, so we will try some things in morning warm-up which will hopefully take us even further forward. My Superpole lap was great but it would have been good to finish on the second row, although it's such a long drag to the first corner that anything can happen at the start."
Steve finished the morning qualifying session in eighth place but it was a traumatic start to the day for team-mate Craig Jones.
He crashed on his out-lap of the morning session, suffering a flesh wound on his kneecap that needed multiple stitches. Despite a desperate attempt to record a qualifying time for that session, in which he missed recording a valid lap by just six seconds, his qualifying time in the wet yesterday allowed him to compete in tomorrow's races, although he will be at the back of the grid.
Craig said: "The crash was probably down to inexperience on my part. I cannot honestly say I know 100 per cent what happened but I don't mind saying I made a mistake. I followed two other riders into the corner and was going slower than they were, so it was a bizarre crash. I lost about a square inch of skin and the wound had to be stitched together. I could definitely feel it on track in the afternoon but I will take a painkiller for the races. In the afternoon I was still having a problem with stability so we have a lot to try in 20 minutes tomorrow morning. The others' lap times on qualifiers are not anything special so I am not beaten yet for the race, as when I find something for the set-up I think I will take chunks off my time."
Superpole results, Superbike World Championship, round 1, Losail, Qatar:
Friday morning qualifying:
Friday free practice: