Jonathan Rea admitted he was fortunate to escape without injury after a dramatic accident in Superpole at Imola. The Ulsterman was chasing a place on the front row but suffered a dramatic highside at the Villeneuve chicane, launching him into the air with a heavy landing afterwards.
Rea admitted he pushed slightly too hard today but thinks he has a bike underneath him with which he can compete with the frontrunners on Sunday.
It's been a bit frustrating today because it seems that we've improved the pace from last year, but the pace to win the race is now much faster. Pirelli have brought a new tyre which is bringing some more time, but, for me, I'm a little surprised that we're not as competitive as we'd hoped. For Superpole we made quite a good change to the bike but I got caught out with a crash at the end when I put a race tyre back in the bike. I had quite a good split and, yeah, just used a few per cent more gas out of turn five and had a big highside, so I think I'm quite lucky to escape without injury. The bike's working OK, but it's quite hard to know what the race pace is going to be tomorrow because quite a few riders have been working on different strategies with tyres. Second row is not so bad, though – I'll just try to get a good start and go with the front guys tomorrow.”
Honda teammate Hiroshi Aoyama was nowhere near as competitive and failed to even qualify for the Superpole session. The Japanese rider will start 23rd on the grid for Sunday's races and has pinpointed braking stability as the area he needs to work on ahead of race one.
“It's been a difficult day for me. We improved things a little bit but it was not enough – we needed to find about two seconds but we still have some work to do. We have quite a lot of different problems so it's difficult for me to put all the sectors together for one good lap. I don't know the track so well and, of course, I am still learning the bike. Our main problem is stability under braking and getting the bike stopped. We'll try to get the bike a little more calm and under control for warm-up because the movement under braking is affecting the whole lap.”
Technical Co-Ordinator Pieter Breddels remains confident that Aoyama will be more competitive tomorrow and is also cautiously optimistic about Rea's race chances.
“I think we made some good steps on Jonathan's side today, but a lot of other guys are quite fast too. We worked on the feeling with the front – changing springs and ride height. We're a bit quicker than last year but need to find a little bit more. We're still on the second row, though, and it seems Jonathan is OK after his big crash, so we'll try to race with the fast guys tomorrow. With Hiroshi we're playing too much catch-up. He's new to the bike and new to the track, but we're still making steps. He's found nearly two seconds today but everyone else is getting faster too. He missed out on Superpole but we have an idea to give him a better bike for warm-up and we saw in Phillip Island that he can fight his way forward, so we'll see what tomorrow brings.”