Jonathan Rea and Max Neukirchner, are preparing for round five of the 2010 World Superbike championship at Monza in Italy this weekend (7-9 May), looking to build on their performances in the last round at Assen.
For Rea, the last motorcycle race marked a perfect weekend with a full-house of pole position, two race wins and the fastest lap, elevating him to third in the championship standings; but the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland is certainly not resting on his hard-won laurels.
Rea, who enjoyed two top five finishes at Monza in his rookie Superbike season last year, is eager to develop further the new base setting on his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade. He and his crew plan on fine tuning it to suit the high-speed duels that the historic Monza circuit has traditionally thrown up in its first 20 years of World Superbikes.
The revised 5.777km World SBK circuit, set in a royal park just north of Milan, holds particular memories for Rea’s team-mate, Max Neukirchner. The 27-year-old German took a win and a second place finish at Monza in 2008, but after qualifying on the front row last year was injured in a pile-up at the first chicane – the Prima Variante. It is this corner that has now been opened up to prevent a bottleneck on the opening laps.
Neukirchner ultimately missed the remainder of the 2009 season and good results thus far in 2010 have proved hard to find. However, after adapting both his Superbike and his riding style for the last round, he and his team were buoyed by impressive lap times and a season-best finish in race two at WSBK Assen.
Jonathan Rea says:" It’s been a really busy time since I got back from Assen – I moved into a new apartment last weekend and then went to watch my motocross team and afterwards saw my brother in the British Superstock championship. I’m really looking forward to Monza, though, and the results last year were not so bad. We know the bike works there because Kiyo (Ryuichi Kiyonari) got on the podium twice, but I can’t wait to see how the new base setting transfers to Monza."
"It could have been easy to get carried away after the double win at Assen, but we’re not naïve enough to think that our rivals haven’t been working very hard since then. We certainly have, because we know how tough it is to get to the front and stay there. I’ll aim for another steady start this weekend; building momentum on Friday and Saturday. You need a bit of fight and determination at Monza, as well as a fast bike, and I’m planning on bringing both this weekend."
Max Neukirchner says: "I’m feeling very positive as we go to Monza because I really feel that we made a big step forward in the second race at Assen. We’ve changed the bike quite a bit and made it stiffer for race two, but the biggest change I&rsq uo;ve made is in my riding style. I need to brake differently into the corners to help me get out faster and, although Monza is known as a very fast circuit, I think we can still make some steps forward there on braking into the chicanes. It’s a very special place, but obviously I have some bad memories from last year. I will just be concentrating on improving the bike and my style and this, I think, will help me to close the book on last season’s problems."
Ronald ten Kate (Team Manager) says: "After the perfect weekend in Assen with Jonathan’s clean sweep we have to get our feet firmly back on the ground and get straight back to business at Monza. The Assen races were pretty close, but I believe that this weekend they may be even closer, so the smallest details will make all the difference. Max made a big step forward in race two at Assen and, although his new riding style feels slow to him, it definitely make s him go faster. I’m hoping he’ll make another step up towards the leading group at Monza, where the revised first corner will be new to everyone since no-one has tested there. But in theory, it’ll be better than the bus-stop chicane that was there before."
Leon Haslam on the Suzuki leads all in the World Superbike Championship with 148 points followed by Max Biaggi with 128, Jonathan Rea with 110, Carlos Checa with 103, James Toseland with 86, Noriyuki Haga with 85 and then Troy Corser on the BMW S1000RR with 68.