The weather had a dramatic effect on this afternoon’s opening qualifying session for the third round World Superbike championship event at Assen in The Netherlands as rain fell just as riders took to the circuit.

Assen qualifying 2012

Following a dry free practice this morning, local radar forecasts predicted rain at 15.30, the scheduled start of first qualifying, with most riders trying to get a ‘banker’ lap in before it arrived.

Honda World Superbike rider Jonathan Rea set the fifth fastest time but his team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama was unable to set a competitive time, ending the session in provisional 21st place as French rider Sylvain Guintoli went fastest.

Rea had spent the morning session continuing the work on the front end feeling from his Honda CBR1000RR, while a technical problem and SBK’s new-for-2012 ‘one-bike’ rule limited Aoyama’s track time.

Honda Motorcycle

Jonathan Rea – P5 1m38.873s

It was quite a weird session this afternoon, to be honest. My guys in the pitbox were monitoring the weather really closely and we could see on the radar that bang on 3.30 there was going to be a shower, with more to follow. So we knew that the first lap was going to be crucial and went out with the softer tyre but already on the first lap I got some spray on my visor. So you could say I took a slightly more conservative approach to getting a banker in, and even then it was getting heavier. How the other guys went the same speed as they did in the first session is beyond me – I wasn’t wanting to take too many risks. In the free practice we made some OK steps with the bike, which is completely different to the race set-up we had here last year. I’m still lacking a little bit of front-end feel but I think it’s the right way to go and we’re slowly getting it sorted. So, this afternoon was a bit of a wasted session – I was the only guy t o go out on intermediate tyres and the feeling from them wasn’t that good to be honest. If it’s like this again tomorrow, I’ll take to opportunity to go out and build my speed on them because it looks like Sunday might be the same conditions that we had today.

Hiroshi Aoyama – P21 1m41.768s

We didn’t start so well this morning with a technical problem so we missed the beginning of this morning’s session. The team fixed the problem very quickly so I was able to go out for the second half of the free practice. We wanted to try some things but we didn’t have enough time, which was a pity. We were going to re-confirm this afternoon but the rain came so it wasn’t possible. We knew the rain was coming but wanted to check the setting with the harder tyre – I pushed as hard as I could on that tyre but it was quite difficult to get the feeling. So, it’s been a pity to lose the opportunity to check things this morning and to make a good lap time this afternoon. We have another qualifying session tomorrow so I really hope it will be dry for that.

Pieter Breddels – technical co-ordinator

We played around looking for some improvements on some known settings with Jonathan this morning, trying to keep things moving forward. He rode on the harder tyre throughout the session, too. We still haven’t quite found the correct setting for the dry but, with the harder tyre, it wasn’t so bad in the end. This morning we had a technical problem with Hiroshi’s bike which sidelined him for most of the session. This was really disappointing because we needed the time quite badly as we search for a better setting, and that was the morning pretty much lost. In the afternoon the riders only got one dry lap. Jonathan is the master at going fast out of the box so there were no problems, but Hiroshi is a little slower getting up to speed and, with only one lap, it was difficult for him. On wet settings, Jonathan was in the top three, but we may get another chance to work on that tomorrow.

2012 World Superbike championship – round three, Assen, Netherlands

First qualifying results:

  • 1 Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Ducati 1m37.600s
  • 2 Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1m37.630s
  • 3 Leon Camier (GBR) Suzuki 1m38.468s
  • 4 Carlos Checa (ESP) Ducati 1m38.665s
  • 5 Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team 1m38.873
  • 21 Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda World Superbike Team 1m41.768s

© 2012 Castrol Honda World Superbike Team