With five podium finishes between them in the last four races, the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda pairing of Jonathan Rea and Carlos Checa is in the hunt for further prizes at this weekend’s 12th round World Superbike championship event (25-27 September) at Imola in Italy.
Spain’s Checa has finished on the rostrum on four occasions this season, including two third places during the last outing at Nurburgring in Germany. The 37-year-old is clearly relishing the recent improvements in his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade since switching to Ohlins suspension in June this year.
Rea, meanwhile, is looking to maintain the consistency of his podium challenges, having made a total of five visits in this, his rookie WSBK season; two of those have been to the top step, leaving him in fourth place overall in the championship standings. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland heads to Imola buoyed by his performance during a July test, when he finished as the fastest rider.
The historic 4.93km circuit 40km east of Bologna has not been on the World Superbike championship calendar since 2006, but has been the scene of some epic battles in the past – notably the championship decider between Colin Edwards and Ducati’s Troy Bayliss in 2002, which saw the Honda rider emerge victorious for his second championship title.
Jonathan Rea Speaks… 4th, 244 points
The Nurburgring win in race two was good, but I needed it after messing up the first race. It just shows that I’m still learning and how much I need to keep pushing. But it was another step up for me, the team and the bike, and that’s what we’ve been looking for in each race this season. The CBR1000RR is a race-winning package now and I need to make sure that I’m there too. It’s all positive for Imola and I’m looking forward to heading back there – there’s so much motorsport history, you can’t help but get goosebumps. We’ll look to confirm the setting that we finished the July test with and then try to get down to some serious lap times and fine tune things for Sunday. It was a good test that we had there and I hope we can turn that and recent form into some decent results.
Carlos Checa Speaks… 7th, 177 points
The last few races have been good for me and for the team and it has felt really nice to be up on the podium again. We have found the right balance with the bike over the last few races and I would say that 70% of the improvement has been down to the way we have been working as a team and with the new suspension technicians. Electronics have improved, too, and the faster tracks seem to suit our bike a little better. It’s a good thing that the last three rounds are all at those kind of circuits. We had a good test at Imola and the recent improvements and results have given us a momentum that we want to continue and given me a renewed confidence for the remainder of the season.
Ronald ten Kate Speaks…
We’ve carried some good momentum through the last few races and it is clear that there is further progress ahead. The team enjoyed a good test at Imola in July but the CBR1000RR has improved considerably since then. We are in a position now when we can hopefully see both Jonathan and Carlos battling for podium finishes or race wins in Imola this weekend.
Provisional World Superbike schedule – Imola, Italy
Friday, 25 September
12.45-13.45 – free practice
16.15-17.15 – qualifying practice
Saturday, 26 September
10.45-11.30 – qualifying practice
14.00-14.45 – free practice
15.00-15.12 – Superpole 1
15.19-15.31 – Superpole 2
15.38-15.50 – Superpole 3
Sunday, 27 September
09.20-09.40 – warm-up
12.00 – race 1 (21 laps, 98.66km)
15.30 – race 2 (21 laps, 98.66km)