Misano Adriatico is the venue for this weekend’s sixth round of the FIM World Superbike championship — the very place where Ballyclare’s Jonathan Rea, now residing in the Isle of Man, scored his debut World Superbike victory back in 2009, beating the Ducatis of Fabrizio and Haga in the Italian manufacturer’s own backyard.
Rea, now riding under the Castrol Honda banner, finished yesterday’s qualifying session in 12th place with fellow countryman Eugene Laverty, making his Yamaha Superbike debut at the circuit, impressively in the top six.
Championship leader Carlos Checa ended yesterday top of the pile on his Althea Racing Ducati with a time of one minute 36.024 seconds, half-a-second quicker than Cal Crutchlow’s lap record set during last year’s race.
Max Biaggi (Aprilia Alitalia) went head-to-head with Checa for much of the session, but any last minute attempt by the Italian to oust his rival from the top spot was thwarted after a crash with Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad) four minutes from the end that interrupted proceedings.
In the crash Corser suffered a bang on the head and was taken to the Medical Centre but the Australian should be okay for today’s Superpole.
The session was completed a short time afterwards, with Corser ending up fifth fastest at a circuit where he holds the qualifying record.
Two more Italians are behind Biaggi: Marco Melandri (Yamaha) and Michel Fabrizio (Alstare Suzuki), with Eugene Laverty completing the top six.
“Friday morning didn't go so well ending the session down in 17th position but I wasn't concerned as I had quite a good feeling on the bike,” said Laverty.
He added: “The team worked hard and improved the bike before this afternoon's session which went much better.
“Checa was fast in the tests here a month ago, he was fast again today, so it was great to be so close to him after just one day on the track with my R1. Hopefully tomorrow will be dry enabling us to work some more on Sunday's race set up which is already at a good point.”
Jonathan Rea also commented on his first day at Misano stating: “We were a lot further off after Friday morning’s free practice session but we’ve closed that gap now to eight tenths off the front time, so we made a step today.
“It’s clear where we’re lacking though, and that’s just finishing off the corner.
“The balance isn’t quite right and we had to compromise today to try and fix things.
“We may need to change the ride height a little, which would then affect the grip levels again, so there’s some thinking to do. We’re not able to drive off the corners quite as aggressively as the others either so we’ll look at that as well.”
Jakub Smrz (Effenbert–Liberty Racing Ducati) pushed his way to seventh on his big twin, one place up on the Aprilia Pata machine of Noriyuki Haga.
Sylvain Guintoli, Smrz’s team-mate went ninth, with the top ten being rounded out by Tom Sykes on the PBM Kawasaki.
Final qualifying and the Tissot Superpole session take place today with two races on Sunday.