Hiroshi Aoyama

Jonathan Rea set the fourth fastest time in Friday afternoon’s opening qualifying session for Sunday’s penultimate 2012 World Superbike championship round at Portimao in Portugal.

The 25-year-old Honda World Superbike Team rider from Northern Ireland lapped the 4.592km circuit on the Algarve in a time of 1m43.886s, six tenths behind provisional pole sitter Marco Melandri. Eugene Laverty and Tom Sykes were second and third fastest respectively.

While Rea has enjoyed recent success at Portimao, including five podium finishes in the last six World Superbike races, his Honda World Superbike tema-mate Hiroshi Aoyama has never ridden at the undulating and demanding Portuguese track.

The 30-year-old Japanese rider spent much of Friday’s practice and qualifying sessions learning Portimao’s ups, downs and blind crests, ending the day in 18th place.

Jonathan Rea – P4 1m43.886s

I’m satisfied because we’re there or thereabouts and we don’t really have the best feeling with the bike yet. I think tomorrow we can improve our acceleration grip a lot by going back to some linkages that we used last year and that I feel more confident with at this circuit where acceleration grip really outweighs edge grip. Coming from the last few rounds where edge grip has been important, we need to go the other way here and that’s our main issue. I’ve also used today to get back up to speed with the bike again because it’s quite a bit different to the bike I was riding last weekend! But for the first day here, it’s not so bad.

Hiroshi Aoyama – P18 1m45.318s

This circuit is even more difficult that it seemed on the scooter. It’s quite bumpy and quite a lot of corners are blind – it’s difficult to find the right line here. Other corners are really nice and, if you know the track a little, I think you can have a lot of fun here. Unfortunately, I’m not having fun yet! Every lap of every session I am learning, but the bumps make things a bit more difficult because you cannot take what you think is the ideal line. I need more laps but we also need a better set up with the bike to make some more progress tomorrow.

Pieter Breddels – technical co-ordinator

Hiroshi is here for the first time and it’s a very hard track to learn with all the uphill downhill sections. We know that everyone takes some time to learn this place. At the end of the day he finished 18th which is not so bad. Of course, tomorrow we want him in Superpole so there is still some work to do yet. Jonathan came from his GP ride in Misano and he used the first session to get used to the feeling with this bike again. In the afternoon he made a significant improvement and got up to fourth and we’re quite happy with that. We expect more good things from him Saturday and Sunday.

2012 World Superbike championship – round 13, Portimao, Portugal
First qualifying results:
1 Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW 1m43.196s
2 Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aprilia 1m43.580s
3 Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1m43.731s
4 Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team 1m43.886s
5 Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW 1m43.921s
6 Leon Camier (GBR) Suzuki 1m43.949s
18 Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda World Superbike Team 1m45.318s

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