News 26 Jul 2009

WSBK: Rea top Honda with front row start in fourth at Brno


Jonathan Rea will start tomorrow’s two tenth-round World Superbike championship races at Brno from the front row of the grid after setting the fourth fastest time in this afternoon’s Superpole sessions. American Ben Spies took the pole slot at the 5.4km Czech circuit.

Despite setting the fastest time at a two-day World Superbike test in Imola, Italy last week, Rea’s performance this afternoon was a surprise to many after the Northern Irishman initially struggled to find a rhythm around the undulating Brno circuit.

However, a step forward during the first Superpole session today saw the 22-year-old set his fastest lap of the weekend. Rea then went out on a used qualifier in Superpole 3 to set his front row lap and underlined it with his fastest lap on a race tyre.

Rea’s Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team-mate, Carlos Checa, will start tomorrow’s races from row three, despite running in the top five in the weekend’s free practice and regulation qualifying sessions.

The Spaniard – who crashed unhurt during free practice this afternoon – was unable to convert the additional grip from his allotted two qualifying tyres into fast laps during the Superpole session and could set only the tenth fastest time.

Jonathan Rea – P4, 1’59.740 (Superpole 3)

In free practice, just before Superpole, we found something in between the two set-ups we were trying. It worked during Superpole and then I was able to set a good time on a race tyre. It’s no secret we were struggling during the weekend and, although I’m now happy I can do good laps on a race tyre, I haven’t been able to do a long run. But at least I can sleep a little more happily tonight. It shows how hard the team has been working. I feel like I’m really finding my feet on the Superbike now and I’m enjoying life! I hope we can keep the momentum going through to the end of the season. I now know I can race tomorrow, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Carlos Checa – P10, 1’59.748 (Superpole 2)

Well, the race is tomorrow and of course it would be better to start from the front two rows. However, I struggled when I put in the qualifier and couldn’t improve my lap time. Usually, you would expect to go at least one second quicker here at Brno, but today it didn’t come. The bike suddenly did not turn so well, especially on the gas and there was a lot of movement from the rear. I’m happy with the overall balance of the bike and I believe we have a good pace for tomorrow. But we need to do some more work with qualifiers to try to keep a good feeling like the race set-up.

Ronald ten Kate – team manager

We’re honestly in quite an unexpected position in a negative and a positive way. On the negative side, Carlos has been top five all weekend and our minimum goal was to help him to a start from the front two rows. Of course, his crash during the free practice just before Superpole did not help the position, but I’m still quite sure he will be a front runner tomorrow. On the positive side is Jonathan, who was struggling all weekend to find a rhythm here. We didn’t quite expect him to be able to propel himself up to the front row during Superpole. But an even bigger positive was the fact that he matched his best Superpole time with a race tyre right at the end in his final outing.

Ryuichi Kiyonari will start tomorrow’s two tenth-round World Superbike championship races from the fifth row of the grid after setting the 18th fastest qualifying time at Brno today.

After beginning the weekend in good form yesterday with the sixth fastest time, the Japanese Ten Kate Honda Racing rider found it difficult in today’s free practice and qualifying sessions to improve his setup as he becomes accustomed to the new Ohlins suspension he is running in his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade.

Ryuichi Kiyonari – P18, 2’00.811s

It’s very frustrating because we have not been able to make an improvement after yesterday’s good start but everybody else has. In reality, the bike is not that much better than yesterday. I’m not sure where the main problem is because there are so many small ones. But we’ll try to eliminate a few of them tomorrow morning and I will of course try my best in both the races.

Ronald ten Kate – team manager

We’re quite puzzled by Kiyo’s problems – especially because during the Imola test last week he became quite familiar with his new settings. So far, we have struggled to give him a good feeling in the front end of his bike and we have been going through a wide range of settings looking for it. It means we might have to try something drastic in warm-up tomorrow, but we’ll look at everything again tonight to see what we need.

The Stiggy Racing Honda team’s aim to secure a good place on the grid for the tenth World Superbike event at Brno came to a disappointing halt in the second day of qualifying, as both Leon Haslam and John Hopkins were pushed out of the first superpole shoot-out this afternoon.

Leon Haslam concentrated on finding the right set-up for his bike in a difficult string of qualifying sessions at the Czech track. The Englishman was left out of the second superpole shoot-out that determines the first 16 places on the grid by less than 0.1s.

John Hopkins displayed a strong performance in the opening day of action at Brno, but chatter issues with his Honda CBR1000RR ended further progress of the American rider.

Leon Haslam will start tomorrow’s 20-lap Superbike races from the head of the fifth row in 17th position, joined by John Hopkins at the same row in 20th position.

Ben Spies will head the 10th World Superbike Event at Brno, alongside Michel Fabrizio (Ducati) in second, Max Biaggi (Aprillia) in third and Jonathan Rea (Honda) in fourth.

Leon Haslam – P17 – 2’00.718s:
“I have been struggling this afternoon. I spend most of the free practice in the garage due to an oil leak, but managed to get my number one bike ready for the first superpole. I secured a fifteenth position on a race tyre, but I knew I had to do better and came in for a qualifier. I had a lot of chatter issues and did not get the most out of that tyre. I am pretty disappointed we missed out on the second superpole. We have a few issues that we need to sort out for tomorrow and hopefully get a good start in the race.”

John Hopkins – P20 – 2’14.727s:
“We tried everything we could to improve our chatter issues. On this track we need a bike that is flowing, but right now we are struggling with the front end of the machine. By the time we got the bike changed we were only able to do one lap before going into superpole. I returned for a qualifying tyre in the first superpole, but made a costly mistake on my flying lap. It will make our work a lot harder tomorrow, but I am confident we can find the right race set-up tomorrow morning and give a hundred percent in the race.”

Johan Stigefelt – Team Manager:
“We expected a lot more from our Superbike riders today. Leon has had a hard time since the first practice here and struggled to make much progress. We will have to analyse the data tonight to see how we can improve the set-up of the bike. After our two-day test at this track two weeks ago we expected better results. John started off well here and felt really comfortable yesterday, but has gone backwards today as we failed to make any improvement. It is just one of those days where we can try without gaining much, but the race is tomorrow and we will work hard and make sure we will take some points home.”