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Rea feels the pain in Spain as Honda struggle

Jonathan Rea suffered a disappointing time in the FIM Superbike World Championships in Spain yesterday, as satellite Ducati teams dominated the day.

Ulsterman Rea, in his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, surprisingly finished way back in 13th position, with Carlos Checa taking the plaudits in Valencia.

Rea’s team’s woes were compounded when Max Neukirchner ended up in 16th position.

Checa was quickest on the Althea Ducati in a time of one minute 34.220 seconds. Second fastest was Jakub Smrz on the Team PATA B&G Racing Ducati, with Checa's team-mate Shane Byrne in third.

The fourth quickest time went to factory Aprilia rider Max Biaggi, who edged out early season title rival Leon Haslam.

Biaggi won both races last time out in Portugal, beating Alstare Suzuki rider Haslam into second each time, and lies second in the points table.

Haslam shared race wins with Checa in the opening round in Australia, and has a 16-point lead over Biaggi in the championship standings.

Sixth and seventh in Valencia were Ducati Xerox team-mates Michel Fabrizio and Nori Haga, with DFX Corse Ducati rider Lorenzo Lanzi in eighth.

The factory Sterilgarda Yamaha team's struggles continued with Cal Crutchlow in ninth and team-mate James Toseland in 12th. Biaggi's team-mate Leon Camier rounded out the top 10.

Despite his impressive pace yesterday, Checa expects his rivals to come back stronger in qualifying and the race.

“This bike works well at this type of circuit, especially in the tighter sections in the middle of the lap,” said Checa.

“I worked this morning on finding a rhythm, and working with the soft rear tyres. I have decided which rear tyre to use already, but not the front yet.

“There is not such a long straight here, so there are possibilities for us. But it is only Friday and I think Biaggi, Haga, and Haslam will be in there also.”

l Casey Stoner was the top man at the end of the first practice session for this weekend's season-opening FIM MotoGP World Championship race in Qatar.

The Marlboro Ducati rider set the pace under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit with a best time of one minute 55.500 seconds.

The Australian has dominated at this track in recent years, and is seeking his fourth consecutive victory in Qatar on Sunday.

The 2007 world champion underlined the pre-season pace of the new Desmosedici GP10 with a dominant performance which saw him finish over half a second clear of Jorge Lorenzo.

Lorenzo's team-mate and reigning world champion Valentino Rossi settled for third place, just two-thousandths off the second-placed man.

Belfast Telegraph