Jonathan Rea returned Honda to the front of the field for the first time in several months after a dramatic second race of the day yielded a fourth place finish, despite a high-speed crash.
The Northern Irishman was making his first race start for Castrol Honda since injuring his wrist at Misano, but showed few ill-effects of the ailment as he became embroiled in an intense fight for fifth during race one, though grip issues would consign him to tenth at the chequered flag.
With rain falling ahead of race two, Rea started well to get up to second, but after running wide twice at the first corner he would drop back to fourth.
However, that was nothing compared to his fall at the same corner on lap thirteen, Rea hitting the deck hard under braking and skating into the barriers. Remarkably, however, Rea got going again and, despite dropping almost half a minute, had enough of a margin to rejoin in fifth, subsequently becoming fourth when Noriyuki Haga retired ahead.
Though he admits he would have preferred a podium, Rea – who was confirmed with Honda for 2012 this weekend -, was pleased to secure the manufacturer's first top five finish since Assen.
“I was really excited to get back on the bike on Friday after three months off but I struggled to get a rhythm in race one and I had some front grip problems and felt a lack of acceleration out of corners,” he said. “In race two it rained right on the start, which was then delayed. I crashed out of fourth going into turn one, which was really unfortunate, but luckily I was able to pick the bike up and re-join in fifth place.
“When Nori Haga crashed out of the lead I got back to fourth so I was happy with the result. I'm especially happy for the team and, although it's not a podium or a win, it's something for the guys who haven't had a lot to cheer about recently. It's a bit of motivation to take to the next race, at least!”