Team Proton KR rider Nobuatsu Aoki cut more than two seconds off his previous best lap time on the V5 at Rio today, narrowly missing a position on the fourth row of the grid after his best four-stroke qualifying performance so far.

The Japanese rider made huge strides in the afternoon session, as his pit crew tackled problems one by one. He was able to ride the new machine more aggressively, and the 2.132-second improvement round the 4.933km Nelson Piquet circuit reflected his increasing comfort.

"I'd like to say thank you to my mechanics. They made a lot of effort to keep the engine performing well to the end of the session, after it had been losing power in the morning. It seems as though the heat is hurting the performance, but they found ways of making it run cooler. One way was to put in cold fuel, a little at a time," Aoki revealed.

"More important was a change to the engine mapping, which reduced the temperature, and it was going strong for the full session, so I was able to push hard. It's coming better all the time," he concluded.

However, team-mate Jeremy McWilliams endured an eventful session for all the wrong reasons: The Ulsterman suffered mechanical problems with both his V5 machines - one of which exploded in dramatic style (pictured), then missed a gear at the end of his fast lap and "hobbling over the line."

"I came very close to a very sore crash when one of my bikes leaked oil onto the back wheel. I was lucky not to fall. It was a leaking output shaft seal, and the mechanics fixed it, but it also put oil all over the tyre I wanted to try for the race," said the former 250cc GP winner. "Luckily we did some endurance testing in the morning, so think I'm okay on tyre choice.

"I switched to my second bike, but that had a gearbox failure, and also chucked out its oil," he continued. "I did my fast lap on the other bike, but I missed a gear on the last corner, and hobbled across the line. I lost half a second, but I wanted to finish the lap because I didn't think I'd get another chance. It was a lot of drama for very little. But the set-up is okay, and as long as I don't have to go back to the early-spec engine I think we can have a good race."

"It was a really positive day, especially for Nobu, and he's in a lot more competitive position than he has been until now," maintained team manager Chuck Aksland. "Jeremy unfortunately had a gear break, and had to switch to his second bike, which wasn't ideal for a qualifying time. But we made a lot of progress today, and it was just unfortunate that Jeremy didn't have a better afternoon."

 

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