Two top ten finishes for rookie Jonathan Rea were the only consolation from a day of frustration for Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, during the opening round of the 2009 World Superbike championship at Phillip Island.
In the two 22-lap races Rea and his team-mates, Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari, all struggled to find rear grip for their CBR1000RRs.
“I managed to get the holeshot in race one and led for three laps, but I was very conscious about preserving the rear tyre so tried to ride as gently as I could,” said Rea, who slipped back to fifth.
“In race two, the pace was just that much quicker and I probably wasn't aggressive enough in the early part. After I dropped back, I was just eating the rear trying to keep with the others and a couple of mistakes meant I had to ride even harder,” added the young Brit, who crossed the finish line in ninth.
Checa, starting his second WSBK season, was left just 12th and 13th.
“It's been a very frustrating day and the problem that I thought would give me the most difficulty, my shoulder, was not a problem after all,” said the Spaniard. “I had a bad start in race one and struggled to get back to the leaders without using my tyre. In race two, the start was better but there was no side grip from the start and I just couldn't do anything about it.”
But Kiyonari suffered the most; the Japanese being taken out in race one and then finishing a lowly 23rd in race two.
“There's not very much I can say,” shrugged the Japanese. “I race one, I got T-boned by Ruben Xaus at the Honda turn and that was the end of my race. In the second, I just had no grip from the start, went into the gravel early on and could not do anything. I'm very disappointed because the simulations we did in practice were very promising for the races.”
Team manager Ronald ten Kate was also surprised by how much his riders had struggled.
“There's no point in trying to disguise the fact that we've had a very disappointing day,” said the straight-talking Dutchman. “The race simulations we did suggested that our race set-up was very strong so I have to admit that we're also a little surprised by these results. The only positive was Johnny's result in race one but, for sure, we have a lot of work to do in order to perform better in Qatar.”