Jonathan Rea has given his hopes of keeping Max Biaggi honest in the World Superbike Championship standings a boost by qualifying sixth on his first visit to Motorland Aragon.
The Northern Irishman has spent much of the weekend learning his way around the Spanish circuit having missed last year's inaugural WSBK event through injury, an endeavour that was further hindered by technical problems during Q1.
Nonetheless, Rea has made good progress throughout the weekend, enough for him to reach Superpole and then break into SP3 for a run at pole position. Completing the session with the sixth fastest time, Rea was delighted to be getting on terms with the front runners given his comparative lack of track time.
“I'm quite happy really, because we've not been here before and to get sixth place at a new circuit, plus the technical problem we had in Q1 yesterday, when we lost half an hour of track time, is pretty good. Superpole 3 was my target and to be one place in from the outside of the track going into turn one is a pretty good gate.
“The bike's working OK but, because of the lack of set-up data from last year, the gearbox is not perfect for this track. It's getting more comfortable to ride now and the set-up is good and the guys are working really well. We have a bike that we can take from track to track without changing too much now, and that's allowed me to learn the track here without chasing a set-up.”
However, Rea remains cautious ahead of the two races, the Honda rider admitting the time taken to learn the circuit means he is yet to undertake a race simulation.
“We've put laps on tyres, but I haven't done a long run yet, so we're going into the race a little bit blind. It's supposed to be cooler but I think our preferred race tyre should cope with that so I think we can sleep easy tonight. I've achieved today's goal and I'm ready for two long, hot races tomorrow.”