Jonathan Rea was quickest in Friday's first qualifying session from Philip Island, joining Carlos Checa as the only two men to put in sub-1.32 minute laps this weekend.
The Ulsterman shot to the top of the timesheets in the afternoon session, after struggling with an electrical issue earlier in the day. Despite Rea’s provisional-pole, he said he still doesn’t have the race pace to stay with Checa and clinging on to Max Biaggi could be a tough ask, as well.
Things on the other side of the Ten Kate garage were not quite as rosy. Former 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama fell off early, leaving his crew to fix a sticky gear selector for much of the day, finishing in 15th, just more than a second behind his teammate.
Ducati looked again impressive at the Island, occupying three of the top five places after QP1. Although, not in the order one would imagine. Qualifying superhero Jakub Smrz put his Effenbert Liberty Ducati second in the order, ahead of Althea Ducati teammates, defending World Superstock Champion Davide Giugliano and defending World Superbike Champion, Carlos Checa.
Checa spent much of the day working on race pace and tire selection, while Giugliano continued learning his way around the circuit. Word from the Althea team is that Giugliano’s quick times were set while following Checa in the closing stages of the session. This makes sense, but impressive nonetheless.
Life at the other major Italian factory is a bit more of a headache than that of Ducati’s. Aprilia had Max Biaggi in fifth, reigning World Supersport Champion Chaz Davies in 14th, and Biaggi’s new teammate Eugene Laverty nursing a multitude of hand injuries in 22nd.
Laverty’s hands didn’t get any worse this afternoon, but a highside at Lukey Heights left him with some bumps and bruises on his feet and a nasty bump on the head. Despite all his injuries, Laverty has been cleared for tomorrow’s activities and is planning on riding.
The walking wounded are in just as much trouble at BMW, where Leon Haslam finished the day in 21st after just three laps. Fresh off surgery to screw together his fractured tibia, Haslam said he cruised during his two flying laps, feeling awkward, but not too bad considering. Teammate Marco Melandri made his debut on the S1000RR today, but could only manage 9th after struggling with clutch and corner-entry issues.
The first major victim of the newly-adopted single-bike rule was Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes. A fall early in the morning session kept Sykes in his box for much of FP1, managing just four laps after the fall. The new single-bike rule has led many teams to fit their bikes with small starter motors to allow for a quick return to the pits in the case of a small off. Kawasaki is one of the few teams without one.
Despite spending most of the morning in the pits, Sykes still managed to finish 7th, some four-tenths off Rea’s time and 0.040 seconds in front of teammate Joan Lascorz.
Broc Parkes led both Supersport sessions of the day, to the delight of his home crowd. But his performance on the Ten Kate Honda was overshadowed by the impressive debut of Jules Cluzel.
The former Moto2 race winner moved to Simon Buckmaster’s PTR Honda WSS squad over the winter, and finished his first day in WSS just 0.026 seconds behind Parkes, good enough for second. Cluzel and teammate Sam Lowes, another 0.006 seconds adrift, sat atop the timing screens for much of the session before Parkes scored his provisional-pole time on his penultimate lap.