Sykes ups pressure by pacing Q1
Title chaser Tom Sykes has set himself up nicely for a run at the World Superbike Championship crown this weekend after a convincing performance during first qualifying at Magny-Cours.
The Kawasaki rider is currently 30.5 points behind Max Biaggi in the overall standings with just two races remaining, but sent out a warning that he will do everything he can to overturn that deficit as he paced Q1 by a comfortable margin,
Heading up the timesheets for almost the entire session, though Sykes was briefly deposed by Carlos Checa in the closing stages, the Briton struck back immediately to set a best of 1min 38.200secs.
More than four tenths quicker than Checa, it was also almost a second better than Biaggi could manage down in seventh place.
Behind Checa, Marco Melandri was showing few ill-effects from the injuries sustained at Portimao as he rose to third place on the best of the BMWs, just ahead of Davide Giugliano on the second of the Althea Ducatis.
FP1 pace setter Jonathan Rea had to settle for fifth on this occasion after spending much of the first 20mins inside the pit lane, the Honda rider leading a quintet of riders split by just over a tenth in the order of himself, Michel Fabrizio, Biaggi, Leon Haslam and Sylvain Guintoli.
Indeed, the session was typically close with just a single second covering fifth down to 16th position, meaning Q2 is likely to be keenly fought.
Further down the order, Maxime Berger, Loris Baz and Chaz Davies bounced back from their FP1 technical dramas to squeeze into the top sixteen in 14th, 15th and 16th respectively.
On the other side of that provisional Superpole entry list, John Hopkins was 17th fastest, ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama, WSBK debutant Claudio Corti, Alexander Lundh and Norino Brignola.