Jonathan Rea confounded seasoned World Superbike Championship observers today by snatching a gutsy second row start on the grid for tomorrow’s final two races of the 2010 series at Magny-Cours in France.
The Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider, who broke his wrist and dislocated his collarbone just a week ago at Imola in Italy, made it through to the Superpole knockout stages of qualification, setting the sixth fastest time in Superpole 3 – less than half a second off Cal Crutchlow’s pole position time and a tenth away from a front row start.
Rea’s crew sent him out on a race tire for the opening Superpole session, saving his two allotted qualifying tires for the latter stages. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland duly delivered, improving his chances of retaining third place overall in the championship standings in tomorrow’s two 23-lap races around the 4.411km Magny-Cours circuit.
His Hannspree Ten Kate Honda teammate, Max Neukirchner, qualified 17th fastest today after struggling to keep his Honda CBR1000RR on a line through some of the tighter Magny-Cours turns. The German is still optimistic of an improvement in his machine’s handling in tomorrow morning’s warm-up.
Jonathan Rea – P6, 1m38.155s
“Well, I made it through to Superpole 3, which I was surprised but really, really, happy about. Last Tuesday, we were still making the decision about whether to come to Magny-Cours, but my surgeon and physio hooked me up with a cast that I can ride with. I couldn’t have done it without them and the guys in Clinica Mobile, who have been strapping my shoulder every session. You know, it’s hard to believe what we’ve just achieved given the state I’m in, but I want to thank all my team. They’ve kept my spirits up and been patient with me on the bike when I’ve been doing a bit of moaning about being sore, but we pulled it out of the bag. We took a bit of a gamble not going out on a qualifier until Superpole 2 but it worked and I ended up having a Q for the last session. I didn’t make the most of it and messed up on my first lap but second row is a lot more than I expected and thanks to everybody that got me in.”
Max Neukirchner – P17, 1m39.341s
“We tried a different swingarm today and it definitely improved the grip levels on the side of the tire but we still have the problem of the bike not holding a line when I let it off the brakes. It’s a particular problem at the tighter turns here at Magny-Cours, where I believe I am losing maybe two tenths each time around. It’s something we’ll try to work on for warm-up in the morning and then, hopefully, I’ll be able to stay with the guys in front and see what happens. “
Ronald ten Kate – Team-manager
“I think Jonathan deserves a lot more than just a big compliment today. To put the bike on the second row with the injuries he has – and only a tenth off the front row – is really amazing stuff. We arrived here without even being sure if he could be on the bike, but after two days on it he has shown some incredible determination and will-power to do what he did. Max still has some work to do but hopefully he and his crew can improve things to try for a couple of decent results tomorrow.”
2010 World Superbike championship – round 13
Magny-Cours, France (4.411km) – final qualifying results:
1. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha 1m37.699s
2. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Suzuki 1m37.768s
3. Jakub Smrz (CZE) Aprilia 1m37.784s
4. Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia 1m38.039s
6. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Hannspree Ten Kate Honda 1m38.155s
15. Max Neukirchner (GER) Hannspree Ten Kate Honda 1m39.341s