Jonathan Rea feels he has the equipment to challenge for a place on the front row in tomorrow's Superpole session after a bright start at Imola. The Ulsterman was fifth fastest, with less than two tenths separating him from pacesetter Jakub Smrz, and felt happy with the performance of the Honda today.
Rea admits there are areas he still needs to improve in but feels a top four place is possible in Superpole if he makes the required progress.
“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.”
Teammate Hiroshi Aoyama faces a tough battle simply to get into Superpole after ending Friday down in 22nd place. The Japanese rider was riding at Imola for the first time and with only the top 16 advance to the knockout session, he's admitted that will have to learn quickly.
“The circuit was more difficult to learn than I expected. Some corners are blind downhill, with another corner immediately after. It's hard to 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.”
Technical co-ordinator Pieter Breddels remains hopeful that Aoyama will make the cut and expects Rea to perform strongly when he runs the bike in its quickest configuration.
“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.”