Rea in the hunt at #Imola
Jonathan Rea ended today’s opening qualifying session for round two of the 2012 World Superbike championship at Imola in fifth place after Jakub Smrz took provisional pole position in warm, sunny conditions at the historic Italian circuit.
In an extremely close opening 45 minutes of qualifying, the ten fastest riders were covered by less than half a second, while the top 15 lapped within one second of each other.
Rea’s Honda World Superbike team-mate, Hiroshi Aoyama, took to the 4.936km Imola circuit for the first time this morning and spent much of the day learning its undulations and requirements for a precise, high-speed line. The 30-year-old Japanese rider ended the first qualifying session in 22nd place.
For Rea, however, today marked a return to a happy hunting ground where, six months ago, he returned from three months on the sidelines. The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland evaluated a new swinging arm today, finishing qualifying less than two tenths off the provisional pole time.
Jonathan Rea – P5 1m48.321s
We had a pretty smooth day, really and tested a new swingarm this morning and kept it for this afternoon. Already, the pace is quite fast – similar to last year – so we’re working to improve a little. Our consistency is quite good but the out-and-out lap time to go clear at the front isn’t coming yet. Whilst we continue to look for a better time, we have to keep race set-up in the back of our minds because last year we were able to manage the race quite well. We’ve got a few changes to try tomorrow morning which will hopefully help us in areas where we’re struggling, like stability under quick changes of direction. When we do that I think we’ll be ready for Superpole but the target for tomorrow is to get on the front row with a good setting for Sunday.
Hiroshi Aoyama – P22 1m51.511s
The circuit was more difficult to learn than I expected. Some corners are blind downhill, with another corner immediately after. It’s hard get the correct line and it’s not so easy to correct the line because the speeds are quite high. If you are a little bit late it’s TOO late! So I must study and get the correct lines and braking points. The chicanes also have different braking points, and these are other areas where it’s difficult to find the correct way to go fast. Of course I want to improve a lot more for tomorrow so I’ll check the data to see where I am losing and where I need to find a faster time.
Pieter Breddels – technical co-ordinator
With Jonathan we started testing some new items, including a swingarm, but the track was still quite dirty. But we completed that session on only one set of tyres, which made it look a little worse than it was. For the afternoon, we kept the swingarm and made some changes to the front and that brought an improvement. For his last outing, we put some new tyres in and Jonathan matched his best race times from last year, so we’re quite happy with that. Hiroshi told us before the season that he might struggle a little with learning new circuits. We’re still also looking for a set up for him – we started this morning with a bit new, and a bit of Jonathan’s setting and we had to modify that. Learning the track at the same time made things a little difficult for him.
2012 World Superbike championship - round two, Imola, Italy
First qualifying results:
1 Jakub Smrz (CZE) Ducati 1m48.146s
2 Joan Lascorz (ESP) Kawasaki 1m48.176s
3 Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1m48.246s
4 Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia 1m48.247s
5 Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team 1m48.321s
6 Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW 1m48.328s
7 Carlos Checa (ESP) Ducati 1m48.375s
8 Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Ducati 1m48.555s
22 Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda World Superbike Team 1m51.511s
Jonathan Rea in opening qualifying action at Imola
Hiroshi Aoyama finds his way around Imola for the first time
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