Following a lean few months, during which time it has failed to get onto the podium since Assen, Honda looks well placed to rediscover its front-running pace after Jonathan Rea put the Castrol-backed machine on the front row at Imola.

With Rea's recent wrist injury hurting Honda's mid-season results, the return of the Ulsterman, coupled to the introduction of the new ride-by-wire system on the CBR1000RR, has provided an immense boost for the team this weekend, culminating in his run to second on the grid.

Indeed, though Rea and Castrol Honda originally brought the new system as an opportunity to test it ahead of 2012, the benefits are already being reaped, Rea less than a tenth off pole position, much to his delight.

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"We were nearly there! I made a mistake on my first lap in Superpole three and, although I had another go, I'd used up most of the tyre by then. But it's SO nice to be back here and, although Superpole is pretty minor compared to the races, we're in a good position, so I'm really looking forward to them.

"It's been a big journey to get here, recovering from injury with the help of medical staff and my family, but the team has also been working so hard with this new system. While I'm really looking forward to racing here at Imola tomorrow, we've got one eye on 2012 and I've a sneaking suspicion we can be quite competitive then as well."