Jonathan Rea heads for this weekend's Misano World Superbike round as the leading Honda rider, the rookie holding fourth in the standings after his second career podium last time out at Miller Motorsports Park.
However, with Aprilia's Max Biaggi just seven points behind, and a 68 point gap between Rea and third placed Michel Fabrizio, the Ulsterman feels qualifying will be crucial.
“I really need to work on improving my qualifying because in the last few races, we seem to have had the pace all weekend but then, for one reason or another, ended up off the front row after Superpole,” he said. “I've not started from the front since Australia but, if you're not there, it makes the first lap really difficult.
“The bike development has been going in the right direction for me recently and that really motivates me and the rest of the crew to do the best job we can possibly do. We've just passed the halfway stage of the season and it's important to deliver consistently good results now and, at some point, take it up to the next level. There's still a gap to the guys ahead of us, but it's a gap that we've managed to reduce slightly and that's what we'll keep working on.”
Rea heads for Misano after a 'working visit' to the Isle of Man TT.
“After America, I had really good week at the TT, helping my friend Keith Amor, who got two podium finishes but was hit by mechanical failures in other races,” he said. “It'll be really cool to go to Misano – it's a nice place to be and a good track that I enjoy riding and I was on the podium there in Supersport last year.”
Team-mate Carlos Checa took his first podium of the season with second in race one at Miller Motorsports Park, but is presently just ninth in the championship. The Spaniard also attended the TT.
“I had a very nice experience at the Isle of Man TT, which I visited for the very first time,” he explained. “Although it was a bit boring waiting for the delayed Superbike race, I am glad I stayed to see it – it's a little bit crazy! It's also amazing to see the whole Island working for this event. There is some incredible Honda racing history there, because that's where it all started 50 years ago.
“It'll be good to get to Misano though – I like the circuit a lot, although we suffered from quite a bit of chatter there last year. It would be good to get back on the podium again, after the first race at Miller two weeks ago. The second race there was not so good but the feature of the circuit where I crashed is not something you find anywhere else.
“The important thing from the last race is that we had enough pace to fight for podium finishes. The bike felt really good and we want to carry that to Italy and through the second half of the season,” he added.
Team manager Ronald ten Kate is pleased to see his riders on the podium and is now hoping to make the next step and start challenging for 2009 wins.
“The last three or four rounds have shown a definite step forward, but we need to make another step now in order to start challenging for race wins,” he said. “With the current development plan, and a test we held at Magny-Cours this week, we definitely hope to make that step forward and our next strides will be in Misano this weekend.”