Honda World Superbike Team riders Jonathan Rea and Hiroshi Aoyama have declared themselves ready for this weekend’s (24-26 February) opening round of the 2012 World Superbike championship at Phillip Island in Australia.
The Honda pairing completed a two-day official test at the picturesque 4.448km Phillip Island circuit this afternoon on their 2012 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblades, marking the start of a year of 20th anniversary celebrations for Honda’s iconic sportsbike.
The test, arranged by championship organiser, InFront Motorsport, was conducted in fine, warm conditions, with track temperatures increasing in the afternoon sessions, as both Honda riders took the opportunity to further test a number of components for their machines, including electronics, chassis and suspension settings and a new swingarm.
The World Superbike paddock will reassemble for the 2012 campaign and the first of 14 rounds this Friday 24 February with the first free practice session scheduled to begin at 11.45am local time. Superpole qualifying will follow on Saturday, with the two 22-lap first-round races on Sunday.
Jonathan Rea – best time 1m31.913s
It’s been really good to get out on track with our rivals at this test because during our winter testing – in Qatar in December and here last month – we’ve been on our own. We’re where we kind of expected to be and we know that to win here is going to be a very big task. Carlos [Checa] is riding very well and consistently but we’re still changing things on the bike because I’m still not 100% satisfied with the set-up. It’s been really good just be on track with the others though, and I’m really enjoying riding bike. I can really feel what the bike’s doing and the electronics are working really well. I’m looking forward to a couple of days off now before we go into Friday’s sessions. We found a bit of a direction with a harder rear and, although the tyre choice in this test has been clear, the race weekend is going to be different again. We played around with springs towards the end of that final se ssion and I was able to lap OK with a harder spring, even when the tyre was worn. That’s a positive and so it’s what we’ll take into Friday morning and move into the new season from there.
Hiroshi Aoyama – best time 1m32.910s
These two days I have learned a lot more and one thing in particular: that this is a very tough championship! We have been working more on the bike and it’s been good to get more laps and try some set up changes. We’ve found some positive things, especially on corner exit, but other things have not been so good. So we have concentrated on the positive and worked on that to move things forward. At the moment, there is a gap to the top riders, so I hope to catch up a little bit during this first race weekend because I believe there is still some space to improve. It seems that when the conditions and temperatures change here, the feeling with the bike is a little different and, because I don’t have so much experience on the bike, this has been a little difficult. It’s something that is helped not only by changing the setting – I must adapt, too, and I am learning to do this but I still need some more time. We weren’t able to do so many long runs during this test but we have still found out some ways to improve the tyre life here. Now we just need to get a better lap time.
Pieter Breddels – technical co-ordinator
We’ve made some steady progress during this test and Jonathan is right there on the pace. It’s difficult to make big steps forward with him but, saying that, he’s up there with the fast guys and we believe he’ll be in a position to fight for the podium in the opening races this weekend. With Hiroshi we believe that we’ve made progress, and even if the lap time is not spectacular, there has been an improvement on the set-up problems we had with the bike during the test here in January. We’re certainly looking forward to going into the race weekend with him. We’ve still got some steps forward to make with Hiroshi’s electronics, too, but we concentrated more on set-up changes during this test. We’re more familiar with Jonathan’s set-up so his electronics are, of course, quite different. All in all, it’s time to go racing and I think we’re ready to see the potential that’s been shown in all this testing.
Official times – two-day aggregate:
1 Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1m31.648s
2 Carlo Checa (ESP) Ducati 1m31.652s
3 Jakub Smrz (CZE) Ducati 1m31.800s
4 Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike 1m31.913s
5 Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia 1m32.034s
6 Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW 1m32.232s
7 Davide Giuliano (ITA) Ducati 1m32.319s
8 Leon Camier (GBR) Suzuki 1m32.320s
9 Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Ducati 1m32.347s
10 Leon Haslam (GBR) Ducati 1m32.397s
11 Joan Lascorz (ESP) Kawasaki 1m32.540s
12 Michel Fabrizio (ITA) BMW) 1m32.605s
13 Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Ducati 1m32.746s
14 Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda World Superbike 1m32.910s
15 Maxime Berger (FRA) Ducati 1m32.911s
2012 World Superbike championship, round one
Phillip Island, Australia – weekend schedule (local times)
Friday 24 February
11.45-12.30 Free practice
15.30-16.15 Qualifying 1
Saturday 25 February
09.45-10.30 Qualifying 2
12.30-13.15 Free practice
15.00-15.14 Superpole 1
15.21-15.33 Superpole 2
15.40-15.50 Superpole 3
Sunday 26 February
12.00 Race 1 (22 laps 97.970km)
15.30 Race 2 (22 laps 97.970km)