FIXI Crescent Suzuki's Leon Camier made steady and impressive progress during the first qualifying session for the sixth round of the World Superbike Championship at Miller Motorsports Park in America today.
Camier (P10, 1'50.520) finished only 0.678 seconds off the quickest time of the day at the end of his 16 completed laps around the 4,907m American circuit. He improved consistently throughout the 45-minute qualifying session as he constantly made steps with his Yoshimura-powered Suzuki GSX-R.
John Hopkins is making a welcome return to the team this weekend after missing the last event due to injury. He made a solid start today as he began a steep learning curve to understand the circuit on his first visit to Miller Park, as well as pushing to get race-fit for this weekend's races. Hopkins finished the first qualifying session in 17th place with a time of 1'51,512, but is convinced he will improve in tomorrow's second qualifying to secure his place in Superpole.
Today's first practice session was held in wet conditions, but fortunately the track had dried in time for this afternoon's Qualifying. The strong winds made it difficult for all riders and with the air temperatures only getting up to 15°C - and the track reaching 20°C - conditions were never very favourable. Provisional Pole was set by Jakub Smrz on a Ducati.
Camier and Hopkins will have a further qualifying session tomorrow morning (09.45hrs local time - 16.45hrs BST) to attempt to qualify for the 16-place Superpole shootout in the afternoon, which will see them push for the best grid positions for Monday's races.
"We had a few problems at the end of this morning's wet session and the start of qualifying this afternoon, but the boys fixed them and I was able to put in a pretty decent number of laps. Generally, I feel good about how the day went because I know that there's a lot more to come from me and the bike. On my fastest lap of the day, I made a mistake, so there's definitely room for improvement tomorrow. The wind was very strong this afternoon and it affected the bike a lot - especially going into turns one and two. If the wind drops or changes direction tomorrow, I'll have to completely change my braking markers, but whatever happens, I hope that it will stay dry. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, because we've got a new-spec Yoshimura engine and I'm sure that it will be a step up."
"It's a big shame that this morning was wet as learning a new track in those conditions is not the easiest thing to do. Then, as the afternoon was dry, I had to learn the track all over again! Considering all that, I was pretty close to a top-16 place and I'm pretty confident of being much higher up tomorrow because there's a lot of room for improvement. I think Miller is a good track and it suits my style. I'm still learning it, but there's a lot more to come for sure."
Jack Valentine - Team Manager:
"Obviously it would've been better for both our riders - particularly John - if the conditions had been dry this morning, but I am reasonably satisfied with things today. Leon had a good session this afternoon and we know he'll improve a lot tomorrow. John is learning the track but he's got the bike more-or-less dialled-in and he'll be raring to push harder tomorrow and get higher up the standings. If it had been dry in both sessions, I'm sure John would've finished in the top-16 and I am confident that's where we'll see him tomorrow."
Miller WSB Qualifying 1:
1. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) 1'49.842: 2. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 1'49.912: 3. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1'50.038: 4. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 1'50.091: 5. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 1'50.280. 10. Leon Camier (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) 1'50.520. 17. John Hopkins (FIXI Crescent Suzuki) 1'51.512.