Hannspree Ten Kate Honda riders Jonathan Rea and Max Neukirchner are in Valencia in Spain for this weekend’s (9-11 April) third round 2010 Hannspree World Superbike championship meeting aiming for an improvement in recent results.
In spite of demonstrating his undoubted pace in both qualifying and race conditions, Rea has a solitary podium to his name from the four races to date this season. The 23-year-old finished third last time out at Portimao in Portugal but that was followed by retirement from the second race whilst in a leading position.
The Northern Ireland rider is philosophical about the relative lack of high-scoring finishes and has declared himself excited about continuing the work at Valencia’s 4km Ricardo Tormo circuit. He crashed out of race one there last season and finished 13th in the second outing; however, the meeting marked a turnaround in Rea’s season and was followed by a string of top five finishes for the then SBK rookie.
Max Neukirchner’s form at Valencia has been impressive in recent seasons, although a likely victory was snatched from him on the final corner of race one in 2008, when another rider ran into the German, ruling him out of contention for the second race as well.
Neukirchner was on the podium there last year, but his 2010 results have been frustrating for him and his team in the two rounds to date. His crew has been looking for a stable balance for his Honda CBR1000RR that will allow him to brake later into corners and, despite rain at a test in Portimao last week, Neukirchner feels that some progress was made.
Jonathan Rea says: "Valencia is a circuit that I’ve never really gone well at but we had a decent test there last December. It’s going to be really interesting to roll out the new electronics package that we tested after the races at Portimao last week – I’m excited because they felt pretty good in the test and I’m intrigued to see how they go at Valencia. The start to the season has been OK, apart from that technical problem we had last time out. I’ve been getting steady points so far, but now we need to be at the front. Luck has to fall in our favor sometime, so hopefully it’ll be at Valencia."
Max Neukirchner says: "After the disappointing results at Portimao I actually felt OK and was looking forward to a full day’s test on the Monday, but the rain stopped the work we wanted to do. We found something but didn’t really have enough dry time to develop it any further. But it was in a completely different direction to what we had on the Sunday and I felt pretty comfortable with it and I was able to go faster on old tyres. We’ll try some more at Valencia and then we have a test at Assen after the races. I’ve had some long conversations with my team about how to find that basic balance for the bike. It has not been easy but I know how hard everyone is working to find it. I was on the podium last year at Valencia and I nearly won a race there in 2008, so I hope to be fighting at the front again this weekend."
Ronald ten Kate, team manager says: "The extra day’s testing at Portimao gave us just enough time to figure out some completely new chassis settings with Max, which we hope will help him to get back to the front of the field. Jonathan will start the weekend in Valencia with one machine carrying the new electronics system because everything felt positive at Portimao. We still have to confirm some things on Friday so we’ll test both systems back to back. All in all we’re hoping for a weekend without any bad luck since Jonathan has clearly shown that he has the speed in him. Because of some misfortune so far, we haven’t been able to achieve the thing that we come here for, which is winning races."