Jonathan Rea set the second fastest time in the opening qualifying session this afternoon in preparation for Sunday’s two fifth round World Superbike championship races at Donington Park in the UK.
In spite of low-speed crashes on a slower laps in both today’s practice sessions, the 25-year-old rider from Northern Ireland set a time of 1m29.394s around the 4.023km Donington circuit, just six hundredths of a second slower than provisional pole sitter Jakub Smrz from the Czech Republic.
Rea’s Honda World Superbike team-mate, Hiroshi Aoyama, was 14th fastest in today’s 45-minute qualifying session as he re-acquainted himself with Donington Park on his first visit since winning the last 250cc Grand Prix here in 2009.
Jonathan Rea – P2 1m29.394s I’m really happy with the bike – the guys have got it in a really good area and it’s working well here at Donington and allowing me to ride smoothly. We’ve really improved in the last sector where we’ve had problems in the past. To be honest, I can’t quite believe how fast we are there and how much we’ve improved even from last year. But today I had two crashes in the same area; exactly the same kind of crash. Fortunately for us they’ve been at very low speeds and I’m fine. It seems to be when I’m not at full race pace, when there’s a different kind of balance to the bike than on fast laps, so it’s a strange one. We’ll look at the data and have a close look at the circuit tonight and see what we can find out. Anyway, I’m quite satisfied for a Friday and the bike’s definitely in the ball-park already. We’re working through tyres and tomorrow the plan will be to put some race distance on them and choose the race tyre.
Hiroshi Aoyama – P14 1m30.522s We started with our Monza setting today but it was a bit too hard so we had to soften it a little at the front and the rear. But it seemed like a good way and we could improve the lap time. It’s definitely an improvement on the first day of the last few races – probably our best start to a weekend. Now we’re analysing what is the main issue to improve the lap time further.
We have space to improve as we are still one second from the leader. The chicane is a little bit different from the last time and a bit more open than before. It’s more difficult because before it was brake hard and accelerate hard. Now, if you brake hard to are too slow, and if you go through too fast it’s easy to lose the line. It’s also quite slippery there and some riders crashed, so I need to work on this section. We’ll see tomorrow how much closer we can get to the top guys.
Pieter Breddells – technical co-ordinator Jonathan is running well up at the front but had two crashes today which we need to investigate. We changed some settings and adjusted the balance to find our way with the tyres, but basically he finished second fastest, so well done to him and the team. It’s looking much better than last year, especially the final sector with the chicane and hairpins, which was a struggle for us before. He’s now fastest there, which shows how much we’ve improved the bike lately. With Hiroshi, it’s also quite positive. He has shown more potential on a track he knows, which is an advantage, but all-in-all, it’s been quite a good day.
2012 World Superbike championship – round five, Donington Park, UK
First qualifying results:
Jakub Smrz (CZE) Ducati 1m29.336s
Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team 1m29.394s
Carlos Checa (ESP) Ducati 1m29.507s
Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW 1m29.604s
Leon Camier (GBR) Suzuki 1m29.614s
Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1m29.719s
Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda World Superbike Team 1m30.522s