Jonathan Rea tops timesheets on opening day at Imola WSBK
The opening day of action at Imola’s Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari saw current WorldSBK Champonship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) leap to the top of the standings in the final moments of the second session courtesy of a 1’47.344 lap-time. Fellow KRT rider Tom Sykes was second at the chequered flag and looked on course to move into first place until an error at the ‘Variante Bassa’ during his final lap.
Jonathan Rea #65 – Kawasaki Racing Team – 1st – “In the first session we worked on trying to feel right on the bike. The problem is that I was so comfortable here with my previous bike that I think I’m trying to turn the ZX-10R into my old machine. I’m not 100% happy with the set-up but the first day always feels strange. I’m not worrying about the others at the moment, I just want to concentrate on myself.”
Tom Sykes #66 – Kawasaki Racing Team – 2nd – “So far so good. We lost some good race potential in the last two races, especially in the second half. That is what we are focusing on right now and we’ve had a good first day here in Imola. The fans are absolutely fantastic and it’s a pleasure to be back to Italy. We are working on small details of the ZX-10R, tomorrow is another day and we have to keep working in this direction. We have a couple of things in mind to improve the package but we’ll see what happens.”
The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati SBK Team was close to the top once more, as Davide Giugliano made a dream return to the WorldSBK paddock by posting the third fastest time of the weekend so far, a fraction ahead of his team mate Chaz Davies, who was fourth after being quickest in this morning’s FP1.
Davide Giugliano #34 – Aruba.it Racing – Ducati SBK – 3rd – “It was important to exorcise what happened in Phillip Island and I thought that giving a 100% was the best way to do so. I had great fun and I felt very comfortable on the bike, which is performing much better compared to winter testing. Having said that, it’s only Friday and we only did few laps, I feel quite tired and I need to rest in order to be ready for tomorrow and Sunday.”
Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing – Ducati SBK – “To be honest things aren’t feeling quite right. Although we’ve been quite consistent today, I’m still missing something in terms of feeling with my bike. There is no one particular thing but I’d like to make the bike a little smoother and have it turn a little better. Nothing major, and overall it’s been a positive Friday, but I know there is room for improvement tomorrow…”
Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) remained fifth, as he had been in the earlier morning session, the rider currently second in the overall points classification finished the first day more than half a second faster than Alex Lowes who powered his Voltcom Crescent Suzuki into sixth.
Leon Haslam: “This morning we had a good session, lapping a lot on the same tyre. In the afternoon we lapped less but we were able to test a lot of solutions anyway. I think that with a night at our disposal to analyse the data we collected today we’ll be able to identify the right direction to go tomorrow. I have a feeling we aren’t too far off, but at the same time I think there is still a lot of room for improvement for our RSV4 RF here at Imola.”
Alex Lowes P6 – “We’ve had some niggling issues today but the lads are working really hard and we’re making big steps over time. We haven’t been able to do as many laps as I would have wanted but we’ll work on the data tonight, chip away at it, and hopefully we can make another big-step with the consistency and get a bit closer to the front guys tomorrow. It’s really nice to be back in Imola, I’m enjoying riding the GSX-R and I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend.”
Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia) improved his time but remained seventh ahead of David Salom (Team Pedercini), the much faster Leandro Mercado (Barni Racing Ducati) and reigning World Champion Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) who was tenth.
Sylvain Guintoli – P10, 1m49.296s – “I’m a little disappointed with our position to be honest because we made some positive steps towards the end of the Assen weekend but we haven’t been able to translate them to the Imola track. I’m not getting the right feeling and I’m finding it quite hard to turn the bike. I can feel the front tyre compressing as I brake for the turns but I can’t get the right feeling with bike. We made some changes after this morning’s session and that helped a little, but we are still a long way off the front so there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Michel Fabrizio (Althea Racing) finished 12th just behind team mate Matteo Baiocco but ahead of Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Superbike Team), Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) – the only rider to not improve their time this afternoon – and Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) who completed the top 15.
Michael van der Mark – P13, 1m49.651s – “It’s been a difficult day today because the bike is not yet working exactly how I want. I really like the track here and it feels like I’m fast but I’m having some problems in the braking area. We tried a lot of things to fix this because it is the main issue that we have but none of them really worked well. We will have to study everything very carefully tonight and try to find a new direction for tomorrow.”
Jordi Torres P15 – “This is a new track for me, difficult and strange in various aspects. I almost feel like I’m in a pipe: up, down, then you have to slow down a lot to take on a chicane, I struggled a bit to memorise it. In any case it’s also true that between FP1 and FP2 we improved by more than a second, but there is definitely plenty of room to get better. There are some areas where I’m struggling, but I think it is just a general difficulty. We need to be precise, let the bike race and stay calm. We’ll wait for tomorrow. Every time I go out on the track I feel like I’ve learned something new and I don’t want to rule out any result.”
All riders have one final chance to make it through into Tissot-Superpole, with the third free practice session scheduled to run for a further 45-minute time tomorrow morning.
Cluzel heads into Saturday as the fastest in WSS
Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) will lead the World Supersport riders into tomorrow’s FP3 and sole qualifying session after topping the opening day of on track action. The Frenchman’s time of 1.51.552s on his penultimate lap narrowly edged championship leader Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) who left it until his final lap to improve on his FP1 time.
The Turk, who has won the last two World Supersport races to lead the current standings, lapped within 0.049s of his championship rival, the Imola winner from 2013 producing a stunning run of consistently fast times throughout both sessions. Sofuoglu was however lucky to escape injury after falling awkwardly during FP2 at turn 2.
Marco Faccani (San Carlo Puccetti Racing) produced an incredible lap in the closing stages of FP2 to finish an impressive third (+0.519s), the current STK600 champion looking comfortable on his home circuit.
American PJ Jacobsen (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres) ended up fourth ahead of other factory MV Agusta rider Lorenzo Zanetti , who gave the Italians something to cheer about. The 2014 WSS race winner at Imola finished the opening day with a fifth place.
Ratthapark Wilairot (CORE’’ Motorsport Thailand) was another rider to leave it until the last moment to show his true pace, the Thai rider elevated himself to sixth with his final lap of the 45 minute session.
Alex Baldolini (Race Department ATK#25), Gino Rea (CIA Landlords Insurance Honda), Kyle Smith (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) and Roberto Rolfo (Lorini Honda) completed the top ten.
Australian Glenn Scott posted the 18th quickest time on Friday while newcomer Aiden Wagner rounded out the field in 23rd position, the Queenslander suffering from clutch issues throughout both sessions.