Photography by Gold and Goose

Jonathan Rea got the Imola World Superbike weekend off to a strong start as the Pata Honda rider was the fastest rider Friday in the opening day at the Imola round of the World Superbike Series. Rea’s 1:48.147 just nipped series leader Tom Sykes, who clocked a 1:48.187 aboard his factory Kawasaki. Marco Melandri made it three different manufacturers owning the three fastest times. Italian Melandri rode his Aprilia to a time of 1:48.262 on home soil.

In a closely competitive Friday, the top seven riders were all within a second of Rea’s top time.

Rea is no stranger to success at Imola. He’s scored two podium results at Imola - he won the first race in 2011 and was second last year in race two. The 27-year-old Brit is coming into Imola in good form having scored three podiums in the last four races, including a win in the last outing at a wet Assen in the Netherlands.

“I really enjoy riding at Imola, but the whole weekend is a great experience because there’s always such an atmosphere at the track with all the passionate Italian fans,” Rea said. “I’ve actually been in Italy with my family since the last race at Assen, so I’m looking forward to the weekend here. I want to build on the recent results we’ve been able to achieve and keep the ball rolling. The layout at Imola really suits me and the bike, but we’ll be concentrating on set-up through all the practice sessions to make sure that we can run the CBR with the front group on raceday. At the moment, the weather looks OK, but we certainly hope it’s more consistent than at Assen.”

Tom Sykes could be the man to beat at Imola: last year he scored the double from pole, recording both fastest laps. In race two he also led flag to flag. Tom adds to these wins two second places, behind Carlos Checa, in the 2012 races. Tom is the only rider in history to have recorded more than one pole here: he counts three so far (2010, his maiden pole; 2012; 2013).

Surprisingly this is one of the two tracks, along with Assen, where Marco Melandri never stood on the podium in his six Superbike races run here. He always scored points at Imola, finishing between fourth and tenth and posting last year his best result: twice fourth. Furthermore, Melandri never started a race at Imola from the front row.

The famous Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit is located in the heart of the town of Imola, 40km south-west of Bologna in northern Italy.

The American EBR squad of Geoff May and Aaron Yates were both near the very bottom of the timing charts Friday.

Imola World Superbike practice times, May 9, 2014

1              65           J. REA    Honda CBR1000RR                           1'48.147
2              1              T. SYKES               Kawasaki ZX-10R              1'48.187
3              33           M. MELANDRI   Aprilia RSV4 Factory        1'48.261
4              50           S. GUINTOLI       Aprilia RSV4 Factory        1'48.323
5              34           D. GIUGLIANO  Ducati 1199 Panigale R   1'48.329
6              7              C. DAVIES            Ducati 1199 Panigale R   1'48.592
7              91           L. HASLAM          Honda CBR1000RR           1'48.999
8              58           E. LAVERTY          Suzuki GSX-R1000            1'49.259
9              76           L. BAZ    Kawasaki ZX-10R                              1'49.600
10           19           L. CAMIER           BMW S1000 RR EVO        1'49.610
11           22           A. LOWES            Suzuki GSX-R1000            1'49.710
12           112         I. GOI    Ducati 1199 Panigale R EVO          1'49.920
13           59           N. CANEPA         Ducati 1199 Panigale R EVO          1'50.015
14           44           D. SALOM            Kawasaki ZX-10R EVO     1'50.103
15           86           A. BADOVINI      Bimota BB3 EVO               1'50.228
16           24           T. ELIAS                Aprilia RSV4 Factory                        1'50.370
17           2              C. IDDON             Bimota BB3 EVO               1'50.609
18           23           L. SCASSA            Kawasaki ZX-10R EVO     1'50.926
19           71           C. CORTI               MV Agusta F4 RR              1'51.034
20           84           M. FABRIZIO      Kawasaki ZX-10R EVO     1'51.357
21           21           A. ANDREOZZI   Kawasaki ZX-10R EVO     1'51.544
22           11           J. GUARNONI    Kawasaki ZX-10R EVO     1'51.572
23           9              F. FORET              Kawasaki ZX-10R EVO     1'51.581
24           32           S. MORAIS          Kawasaki ZX-10R EVO     1'51.707
25           10           I. TOTH BMW S1000 RR                                  1'52.445
26           99           G. MAY EBR 1190 RX                                        1'54.669
27           56           P. SEBESTYEN     BMW S1000 RR EVO        1'55.102
NQ         20           A. YATES              EBR 1190 RX                        1'56.225                                                                                               

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