Honda's three leading World Supersport riders - Andrew Pitt and Kenan Sofuoglu of Ten Kate and Parkalgar's Eugene Laverty - remain confident despite a slow start to the Valencia weekend.
Reigning title holder Pitt arrives at round three leading the championship, although it is Sofuoglu and Laverty that have each stood on the top step of the podium prior to the first European round.
However, Friday's single free practice session at Valencia was dominated by home star and 2008 winner Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki), who pulled 0.671sec clear of nearest rival Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) with Sofuoglu the leading Honda rider in fourth, 1.162sec from the top.
Unlike Laverty, the Ten Kate riders are using the 2009 CBR600RR for the first time this weekend.
“Of course, it's not ideal to test a new bike for the first time at the start of a race weekend but we must not forget that the Ten Kate guys have won seven world titles with different CBR models so they know how to get the best from it,” said Sofuoglu. “We still have lots of work to do, but I can already tell there is a lot of potential in the new bike. We will make some more improvements tomorrow and be ready for Sunday's race.”
Pitt completed free practice in tenth position.
“Yeah, there's a fair bit of fine tuning to do to get the balance right; and there are one or two electronics gremlins to sort because the package seems to work differently with this new engine,” said the Australian. “Unfortunately, there's really only one choice of tyre, which means we have to get the new bike to work around that and, with the limited number and one session less, it's a little harder. But it's good to be on the new CBR and we'll be making things better right up to Sunday's race.”
Laverty, who snatched a thrilling debut WSS win from Pitt last time out at Qatar, was only ranked 14th - but claims to be unconcerned by his present position.
“We are down the order but I am happy with my current position, we are not lost by any means,” said the Irishman. “We need to make some chassis changes and we have a good idea what direction they need to go as it is to combat an issue we found during pre-season testing. My Parkalgar Honda is not finishing the longer corners as I want it too and we think we know how to fix that. Lascorz is riding well and will take some catching but I think we will be up on the front two “