Jonathan Rea took fourth and second place finishes in the two sixth round World Superbike championship races at Miller Motorsports Park in the USA.
The races were won by Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri, but Rea showed strongly in both 21-lap outings, the second of which was curtailed followed a crash involving Rea’s Honda World Superbike team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama.
Aoyama, who finished 17th in the first outing, was unhurt in the third lap crash at the 4.9km Miller circuit just outside Salt Lake City in Utah. However, the Japanese rider’s CBR1000RR struck a curb in the crash which holed the engine.
Rea re-started the delayed race from sixth place on the grid and, after early leader Carlos Checa crashed out, the 25-year-old was quickly embroiled in a thrilling four-way tussle for the lead with Marco Melandri, Chaz Davies and Max Biaggi.
Taking the lead on lap 11, Rea controlled the race until the final lap, with the superior handling of his CBR1000RR clearly visible in the twistier parts of the track. However, Melandri had the edge on speed down Miller’s 1.2km straight and Rea finally crossed the line just 0.2s behind the Italian.
Jonathan Rea – 4th and 2nd
We knew we had good pace for today but I had some front chatter in race one. It was coming from the engine braking so we released that a bit for race two. We changed the front tyre as well, because the temperature had gone up. That gave me the confidence to push because I knew the guys in front in race one had used the same one. It was good, and my guys gave me a little bit more power off the turn. It’s clear to see how well the bike is working and how much traction I’ve got. It’s just the big, long straight here at Salt Lake where we’ve been down on speed. Without dwelling on the negatives, my guys gave me a great bike and it’s working really well. I’ve got real confidence now and don’t feel like I’m riding on the edge – it’s quite controlled, which is a good thing, so thanks to all the team for their continued hard work. Nobody’s giving up and, without thinking about the championship, it’s just n ice to come back here to the winner’s enclosure and be on the podium. After the nightmare of last year at Miller, it’s really cool to be fighting for wins.
Hiroshi Aoyama – 17th and DNF
It’s been a difficult first time here at Miller for me. We started with rain and improved each session but not enough to catch up with the others. This morning I felt really good in warm-up so I was hoping that I could make a really good race. But in race one I had a problem and went off the track about three times and it was really difficult to finish the race without crashing. In the second race I wanted to make things better and was really motivated, but I pushed a little too hard and crashed. I’m lucky that I’m not hurt so I can look forward to Misano now, which is a track that I know.
Pieter Breddels – technical co-ordinator
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been a very good day for Hiroshi, with 17th in race one and a crash early in race two. At least he’s not hurt, so we’ll go to Misano, a track that he knows, and keep working and pushing to get him more comfortable on the bike to show what a good rider he is. For sure, he can do better than he is doing at the moment, so we’ll stay positive to motivate him and help him get closer to the front. For Jonathan it’s been a very good day with two great results. Fourth in race one was followed by a fight for the win in race two right up until the very last lap. Well done to him, the team, the crew around him. It’s been a really good day.
2012 World Superbike championship, round six
Miller Motorsports Park, USA – 4.907kmkm, 21 laps
Race 1 results:
1 Carlos Checa (ESP) Ducati
2 Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW
3 Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia
4 Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team
5 Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aprilia
6 Jakub Smrz (CZE) Ducati
17 Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda World Superbike Team
Race 2 (18 laps) results:
1 Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW
2 Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team
3 Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia
4 Chaz Davies (GBR) Aprilia
5 Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki
6 Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aprilia
DNF Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda World Superbike Team
Championship points after six of 14 rounds:
1 Biaggi 160.5, 2 Melandri 142.5, 3 Sykes 142.5, 4 Rea 141, 5 Checa 130.5, 6 Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW 103
Next round: Misano, Italy – 8-10 June