Jonathan Rea set the fifth fastest time in this afternoon’s opening qualifying session at Magny-Cours in France for the last two World Superbike races of 2012 on Sunday afternoon.

Jonathan Rea at Magny Course

Carrying a new, one-off livery to highlight the unveiling of the 2013 CBR1000RR Fireblade last Tuesday, Rea was fastest in the first free practice session this morning. However, provisional pole position was taken by Tom Sykes who is battling for the 2012 World Superbike championship title with Max Biaggi, who finished seventh fastest today.

Carlos Checa, Marco Melandria and Davide Giugliano took the other front row places, just ahead of Rea, whose Honda World Superbike team-mate, Hiroshi Aoyama finished in 18th place this afternoon.

Aoyama has never visited the 4.411km Magny-Cours circuit and the Japanes rider spent today’s two sessions learning its combination of fast, long straights, tight hairpins and technical chicanes.

Jonathan Rea– P5, 1m39.014s

I had a problem with my rear brake at the start of the afternoon session and we lost quite a lot of time but, all in all, today’s been OK. We had a very good rhythm this morning but, when we tried to improve the bike, we went the wrong way. Tomorrow we need to aim to improve the corner exit, which is where we’re really struggling. Also, turning in is a bit of a struggle but the bike is actually not so bad. We just need to sit down tonight and find a way to maximise the acceleration out of the slower corners here.

Hiroshi Aoyama– P18, 1m40.631s

It’s another difficult circuit for me. The track is quite technical, with fast straights and a combination of hairpins and chicanes. It’s quite difficult to learn and I have a lot to do. I think I can improve more on my side than by changing anything on the bike at the moment. Of course, we will try to adjust a little bit on the bike but I need to look at my riding to find a better way around the racetrack. I am reducing speed a little bit too much for the chicanes and I need to find a better line through so I can avoid slowing down so much and carry more speed.

Pieter Breddels– technical co-ordinator

Hiroshi was 18th which is not all bad considering he has never been here. We had some technical issues with his bike as well, which caused him some problems, so we need to look at that and look for a better setup. Jonathan was a strong first in the morning session with everything going smoothly. We didn’t really change that much for the afternoon, but we went away from this morning’s setup and it’s not clear whether this was the right way to go. We had some traffic and a problem with the rear brake so there’s a lot more to come tomorrow, I think.

2012 World Superbike championship – final round, Magny-Cours, France

First qualifying results:

  1. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1m38.200s
  2. Carlos Checa (ESP) Ducati 1m38.648s
  3. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW 1m38.742s
  4. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati 1m38.962
  5. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team 1m39.014s
  6. Michel Fabrizio (ITA) BMW 1m39.139s
  7. 18 Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda World Superbike Team 1m40.631s