Hannspree Ten Kate Honda riders Carlos Checa and Jonathan Rea both finished inside the top four in today’s solitary free practice session at Imola in Italy in preparation for Sunday’s two 12th round World Superbike championship races.A curtailed schedule meant that today’s provisional qualifying session was lost after track surface problems resulted in the 4.93km circuit having to be cleaned. The World Superbike riders went out for the first practice session at 12.45 as planned, but extremely low levels of grip meant coming straight back into the pit boxes to sit out the rest of the session.With the hour’s free practice session finally getting underway at 17.45, Checa set the second fastest time, with his team-mate Rea fourth fastest behind today’s pace setter, Michel Fabrizio.Carlos Checa Speaks… (2nd fastest, 1’50.125s)The track is OK now, although still a little bit slippery at turn two. I think there was probably a little bit of panic this morning with the low levels of grip, but all it needed was a few bikes to go round for a few laps and things would have improved quite quickly. Still the delayed schedule means a late dinner, which is how we like things in Spain! The feeling with the bike is quite similar to the test but managing the power here is never easy, with the front wanting to come up all the time. We have some new engine maps to try tomorrow, but we’re on the pace with some consistent 1’50s laps, so everything is quite positive. If we had to race tomorrow, we’d be OK.Jonathan Rea Speaks… (4th fastest, 1’50.308s)It’s all under control! It’s been a difficult day with the earlier condition of the track but at least we confirmed the base setting that we found during the test here in July. We also worked on a base tyre this afternoon because there’s not really going to be much of a choice for the races, I think. Today really felt like a shakedown test to blow out some cobwebs. The first and last corners are still quite slippery but we’re right in the ball park already. There are still some issues to sort but the bike’s good and the cobwebs are blown away. I’m now in full Imola mode, ready to attack tomorrow.Ronald ten Kate Speaks… (Team Manager)To call this a strange kind of day would be a bit of an understatement, but at least it ended quite well for us. Carlos and Jonathan were in the top four throughout most of the single session we had today. There are still some small issues to resolve, but no huge complications, so it’s looking OK to make further progress tomorrow.
2009 World Superbike championship, round 12 – Imola, ItalyFriday Qualifying
1 Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Ducati 1’49.895s
2 Carlos Checa (ESP) Hannspree Ten Kate Honda 1’50.125s
3 Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha 1’50.213s
4 Jonathan Rea (GBR) Hannspree Ten Kate Honda 1’50.308s
5 M Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia 1’50.515s
6 Yukio Kagayama (JPN) Suzuki 1’50.516s