Hiroshi Aoyama comes away from his first weekend as a World Superbike Championship rider feeling more positively about the season ahead after showing an upturn in form during the two races at Phillip Island.
The Japanese rider, who joins the Superbike ranks after two seasons at MotoGP level, had been struggling to find the right set-up on the factory-supported Honda CBR1000RR during practice and qualifying, leaving him 16th on the grid for his first races in the series.
Nonetheless, the 2009 250GP champion proved his worth over a race distance as he steadily made gains on his rivals, culminating in a run to eighth and ninth at the chequered flag.
Indeed, though Aoyama is confident there is far more to come when the series resumes at Imola in five weeks' time, he is otherwise pleased with his first performance.
“I think it's not so bad for my first Superbike weekend,” he said. “We had a not-so-easy start on Friday when I had one crash and we had a lot of problems. That didn't help us to go much faster and we tried many things but couldn't improve. In the races we managed to finish in the top ten with eighth and ninth and I want to say thanks to all the guys who worked for me.
“It was a tough weekend but ended up not too bad. I'm looking forward to the next race in Imola – of course I've never ridden there, so it's going to be tough for Friday. We have month to improve the bike a little bit and, if I can find a better feeling, I can push a little bit more and this is what I am looking for. Anyway, considering the situation now, it's not so bad!”
Together with Jonathan Rea finishing seventh and fourth on the sister Fireblade, Aoyama's results mark the first time Honda has gotten two bikes into the top ten of both WSBK races since Magny-Cours 2009.