Aprilia continued to send a warning out to its rivals following the first day of competition for the second World Superbike round of the season at Losail, Qatar, with both Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano qualifying inside the top ten.
After an impressive turn in Australia, one that saw Biaggi qualify on the front row and run top five pace in the races, Aprilia had expected to endure a steeper learning curve at Losail having been unable to test there.
However, both Biaggi and Nakano were in contention with the leaders for much of the day, the Italian coming away with a provisional fourth on the grid after a late spurt, while Nakano was tenth.
Still, despite the impressive statistics, Biaggi was adamant that there remains plenty of work to do on the RSV-4, complaining he is still losing a few tenths a lap with stability problems.
“These practices were not easy,” he said. “We started off without any data or parameters from previous years with which to work and this put us at a disadvantage with respect to the others since we debuted in this category with the RSV4.
“There was some improvement in the official afternoon trials and the bike became more manageable, but we're still losing a few tenths of a second per lap with respect to the others because we're missing stability, especially in the fast curves.
“Now, with help from the technicians, we're trying to find some solutions to become more efficient, but there's not much time to work with and so we're mostly concentrating on the suspension.”
Capitalising on his prior knowledge of the Middle Eastern circuit, Nakano was a surprise name to grace the top of the provisional qualifying timesheets for much of the session, even if he would eventually have to settle on the fringes of the top ten.
“It's not easy to arrange the work we have to do here because we don't have any data to analyse, but it didn't go too badly today, in any case. Compared to Phillip Island, we managed to resolve a few problems.
“We have less chattering and this has allowed me to concentrate more on my driving. The track was quite slippery this morning, but the grip improved during the afternoon and we were able to work much better on the suspension. The engine is fine but the erogation is still far too aggressive.”