Carlos Checa made a perfect start to his home World Superbike round by being fastest in Friday free practice at Valencia, but had slipped all the way back to 15th by the conclusion of the following first qualifying session.

Nevertheless, such were the closeness in lap times that the Spaniard - who collided with leader Max Neukirchner at the final turn in race one last season at Valencia - was still within 0.766sec of provisional pole sitter Max Biaggi (Aprilia).

"We had a few little problems this afternoon, like a sensor breaking on my number one machine," revealed Checa. "This morning was not so bad and we went some way to improving the chatter that we suffered during the last races. Now we need to work on getting the bike to turn a little better.

"I was unable to take my preferred bike out to go for a better lap time this afternoon and so I couldn't go any faster than this morning. But we'll do some more work tonight and try to start tomorrow in the same positive way as today," he added.

With Checa sinking down the order, rookie Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team-mate Jonathan Rea was left to lead the CBR challenge in ninth position, 0.553sec from the top.

"I'm just having a nightmare in the last sector, where I'm about 16th quickest," explained Rea. "I'm third and second fastest in the two sectors before that so I'm happy with most of the corners and have to concentrate on that last one. We'll compare data with the others tonight and bounce some ideas round to get that sorted. We're pretty sure on race tyres as well, so there are definitely some positives to take from today."

"The basic speed is there to achieve the lap times that we anticipate for the race quite easily," underlined team manager Ronald ten Kate. "With 17 people covered by less than a second, a small improvement can make a big change in the order so it's very close."

Ryuichi Kiyonari was tenth fastest on the non-Hannspree machine.