Hiroshi Aoyama took a provisional second row grid slot with the eighth fastest time in today’s opening qualifying session at Moscow Raceway in Russia with his Honda World Superbike team-mate Jonathan Rea less than a tenth of a second further back in tenth place.

Honda Moscow Racing

Provisional pole position was taken by Italian Davide Giuliano, closely followed by his team-mate and reigning champion Carlos Checa. Third placed Sylvain Guintoli is less than three tenths faster than Rea, suggesting some close racing on Sunday.

Following Wednesday’s official test, today marked the first time that the World Superbike machines had been ridden competitively on the new 3.931km Moscow Raceway track – a narrow, tight and twisty circuit 75km west of the Russian capital.

The riders will return for second qualifying tomorrow morning ahead of the afternoon’s Superpole sessions to determine final grid positions for Sunday’s two 25-lap races.

Hiroshi Aoyama– P8, 1m35.988s I think today we found a better set-up than during the test on Wednesday. Of course, I want to improve in a couple of places on the track – both myself and the bike. In the last few minutes today we put in a new tyre, but there was a lot of traffic so I could not make the most of the grip level. The track is quite small so, even if another rider is slower, it’s difficult to pass. I also made a couple of mistakes so I think the lap time could have been better. Even on the harder tyre we were able to make some consistently good laps so, if the weather is OK tomorrow, we’ll see how much we can improve.

Jonathan Rea– P10, 1m36.061s We’re getting things together a little better but there are still some areas where we can improve the bike in all sectors. The more we talk, the more we realise what direction we need to go in. The weight transfer is a little bit too much under braking which makes it quite difficult to control on a tight circuit like this. The test on Wednesday helped us to get the right gearbox in the bike with the right gearing, so we don’t have to worry about that going into tomorrow. But we’re still not where we want to be – the front two guys a little bit ahead, but it’s very close for the rest of us.

Pieter Breddels– technical co-ordinator Hiroshi finished a really strong eighth today and he already showed in the test that he clicks with the track here. His crew kept working and made some positive steps and Hiroshi was able to keep improving his times, right to the end of the session. It’s fantastic to see after the struggles he’s had so far this season. I’m really happy for him and that side of the team – hopefully they can improve even more tomorrow. Jonathan lost a few tenths on his last run but it’s all very close so, on paper, it probably looks worse than it actually is. We’re in quite good shape considering we still have some improvements to make, so it’s work in progress.

2012 World Superbike championship – round 11, Moscow Raceway, Russia

First qualifying results:

  1. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati1m35.074s
  2. Carlos Checa (ESP) Ducati 1m35.284s
  3. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Ducati 1m35.751s
  4. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW 1m35.772s
  5. Chaz Davies (GBR) Aprilia 1m35.828s
  6. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1m35.905s
  7. Lorenzo Zanetti (ITA) Ducati 1m35.980s
  8. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda World Superbike Team 1m35.988s
  9. Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW 1m36.039s
  10. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team 1m36.061s