The Ulster teenager has been a surprise package to the Superbike establishment over the past two days of free practice and qualifying. More importantly, he was fastest in both of today’s official qualifying sessions at the tight and twisty 2.176-mile track.
However, Rea is approaching the two 18-lap races in a typically mature manner – with his feet planted firmly on the ground. The talented Red Bull Honda protégé is sticking to his initial objective of securing a top six finish aboard the immaculately prepared CBR1000RR Fireblade.
Rea has spent a lot of time developing the machine with Red Bull Honda’s Chief Technician Chris Pike since the beginning of his debut Superbike season. He feels confident that they have found the optimum set-up for his riding style – and the Irish circuit – and is hopeful of recording his best result of the season to date.
Jonathan Rea: “I can’t believe how easy that felt on the Red Bull Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade. I’ve been trying much harder at other circuits this season and not doing as well. I’m absolutely ecstatic.
“I’ve never had a pole position in the 125GP or Supersport classes over the past two seasons as part of the Red Bull rookie programme. This is proof of what Red Bull Honda can achieve in a relatively short space of time. To have managed this so early in my Superbike career is truly amazing.”
Qualifying: 1. J. Rea (Red Bull Honda) 1:39.344; 2. G. Richards (Kawasaki) 1:39.475; 3. L. Haslam (Ducati) 1:39.518; 4. R. Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda Racing) 1:39.649; 5. M. Rutter (HM Plant Honda Racing) 1:39.724; 6. M. Laverty (Honda) 1:39.874; 7. G. Lavilla (Ducati) 1:39.903; 8. G. Mason (Honda) 1:40.077; 9. K. Harris (Honda-Racing.co.uk) 1:40.097; 10. D. Thomas (Kawasaki) 1:40.192
Laverty in top eight
Eugene Laverty used his knowledge of his local circuit to secure a top eight starting position for tomorrow’s British Supersport Championship race at Mondello Park. The 18-year-old will launch his 16-lap crusade at the tight and twisty 2.176-mile circuit from row two.
Laverty has struggled to find a good set-up for the Red Bull Honda CBR600RR over the weekend, but some minor adjustments have led to an improvement in the machine’s handling characteristics. He is now confident that he can put in a convincing challenge for a leading position in tomorrow’s race.
The Toomebridge teenager proved his skill at the Irish track when he claimed victory in last year’s British 125GP Championship race, much to the delight of local fans. Laverty is aiming for a top ten finish and what would be another crowd-pleasing result.
Eugene Laverty: “I’m quite optimistic about the race following my experience here last season. I know it will be very close because overtaking is quite difficult at this circuit. For that reason, I’m concentrating on getting a good start and then just focussing on reaching the chequered flag.”
Qualifying: 1. C. Crutchlow (Honda) 1:41.160; 2. T. Sykes (Suzuki) 1:41.341; 3. L. Camier (Padgetts Honda) 1:41.697; 4. J. Vincent (Padgetts Honda) 1:41.820; 5. S. Easton (Ducati) 1:41.837; 6. P. Riba (Kawasaki) 1:42.112; 7. J. Robinson (Honda) 1:42. 800; 8. E. Laverty (Red Bull Honda) 1:42.970; 9. C. Jones (Honda) 1:43.085; 10. K. Murphy (Honda) 1:43.455
Further learning for Jones
Chris Jones continued his steep learning curve as part of the Red Bull Honda youth development programme this weekend with his first visit to Mondello Park. The 14-year-old has found it difficult to learn the 2.176-mile Irish track, but has shown gradual improvement since yesterday’s free practice.
The Droitwich rookie has even managed to find a position on the second row of the grid for the fifth round of the British 125GP Championship. Jones’ best time of 1:47.512 on his RS125 was good enough to secure seventh place.
Having completed race distance and scored his first podium for Red Bull Honda last time out at Oulton Park, Jones is focussing on reaching the chequered flag for the second consecutive round. He is also aiming to boost his current points tally of 16 – just one point outside a top ten place – to give a more accurate reflection of his true standing in the 125GP class.
Chris Jones: “Riding at Mondello Park has been another new experience for me. My time with the Red Bull Honda team has taught me to learn the circuits on a gradual basis. This is exactly what I have tried to do here. I feel quite comfortable with the track layout now, so I’m just aiming to complete the full 12 laps and see how it goes from there.”
Qualifying: 1. J. Westmoreland (Honda) 1:45.823; 2. R. Guiver (Honda) 1:46.031; 3. D. Linfoot (Honda) 1:46.539; 4. B. Smith (Honda) 1:47.108; 5. A. Beech (Honda) 1:47.306; 6. K. Weston (Honda) 1:47.400; 7. C. Jones (Red Bull Honda) 1:47.512; 8. T. Grant (Honda) 1:47.550; 9. B. Clark (Honda) 1:47.608; 10. C. Elkin (Honda) 1:47.920