Rea takes positives from Valencia results

LARNE rider Jonathan Rea took sixth and fifth place finishes in Sunday's two third-round World Superbike championship races at Valencia as Leon Haslam, who still leads the championship and Noriyuki Haga, took the wins.

Starting from the second row on the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, Rea lost places at the start of the opening 23-lap encounter, finishing the first lap in 10th place. The 23-year-old once again fought his way past a number of riders, however, moving up to sixth at the flag.

His race two start was better, and Rea was in a leading position when the race was red flagged after two laps due to oil causing a major crash on the start-finish straight. With results subsequently based on aggregate times, Rea’s result moved him up to fifth place in the championship standings.

Jonathan said: “We’ve had a few gremlins this weekend, which ended up costing us time but I feel I’ve got a lot out of both races today. It’s been a difficult weekend and it’s been clear we didn’t have the pace of the front runners, but we’ve found out how to make the bike better.

“The new electronics have definitely made the bike easier to ride, but we’ve had problems getting acceleration and grip on corner exits. It’s still early days with the electronics, though, and we know what to work on when we test at Assen this week. I’m really looking forward to that and the next race there, and I’d really like to thank my team for all their efforts this weekend. When morale’s been low, there’s always been a smile on their faces and I’m very grateful for that.”

The verdict of Ronald ten Kate, team manager, was: “Not good, not bad – just kind of medium results for Jonathan. Valencia is historically quite a difficult track for us so I guess, considering that, we have to be satisfied.

“However, from now on we really need podiums to be in a position to challenge for the title. We have a two-day test at Assen this week which will allow us to try a lot of new settings and prepare for our home race in two weeks.”

Results, race 1 - 1, Leon Haslam; 2, Max Biaggi; 3, James Toseland; 4, Troy Corser; 5, Noriyuki Haga; 6. Jonathan Rea.

Race 2 -1, Noriyuki Haga; 2, Carlos Checa; 3, Max Biaggi; 4, Leon Haslam; 5, Jonathan Rea; 6. Sylvain Guintoli.

Championship points after three of 13 rounds: Haslam 123, Biaggi 105, Checa 80, Haga 79, Rea 60, Toseland 50.

Next round: Assen, Netherlands, April 23-25.

Laverty struggles for grip

Eugene Laverty smashed the circuit best lap for a Supersport bike on his way to pole position at the third round of the World Championship at Valencia in Spain on the Saturday, but in the race on Sunday things did not quite pan out as the local rider would have wanted. He struggled with tyres to finish fifth after leading in the early stages.

It was enough, however, to see him in a clear third in the championship standings before the Dutch round in a couple of weeks

Eugene said after the race: “I struggled for rear grip for the entire race. I choose the same tyre that worked yesterday, but it was warmer today. This tyres and setting are good for me as it gives feel and for one-lap it is great, hence our two pole positions, but for racing it is not performing.

“I am going to have to go back to settings that are not quite as good for feel but give more grip over a race distance. We have been here before and we know what to do.

“I was nursing my tyre right to the end. I had so many moments both front and rear. The result is better than Portugal and we will be back at Assen stronger than ever, that I promise.”

Simon Buckmaster, Parkalgar Honda team manager, added: “Eugene struggled for grip through the race right from the start. We know what changes he needs to make to his Parkalgar Honda in order to get the grip back and that is the direction we will go for the next round.”

Rossi is off to a flier after win in Qatar

A brilliant race to start the 2010 Moto GP season saw Valentino Rossi get his title defence off to a perfect start by taking the first win of the season in Qatar after polesetter, Casey Stoner, crashed out of the lead just five laps into the race.

Front-row qualifiers Stoner, Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo all got good starts, but it was Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda who led the field into the first turn, after a lightning start from the third row of the grid.

Pedrosa and Rossi swapped the lead for two laps, before Stoner pushed his way to the front and started to pull away from the chasing group. The Ducati Marlboro rider posted the fastest lap of the race on his fourth lap, as he tried to open a gap on his pursuers. The Australian was still pushing hard when he made an uncharacteristic mistake, lost the front and crashed out of the lead on the very next lap.

With Stoner gone and a clear track in front of him, Rossi upped the pace and tried to pull away from the field. Nicky Hayden on the second Ducati Marlboro Desmosedici and Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso rode hard to stay in contact with the reigning World Champion and, on lap 16, Dovizioso managed to squeeze his way past the Fiat Yamaha to briefly take the race lead.

Rossi retook the lead on the following lap and held it to the line, ending Stoner's run of three successive victories in Qatar.

“I got a fantastic start, but I wasn't quite fast enough and was suffering on the straight,” said Rossi. “I lost some time passing Pedrosa and by then Stoner was quite far from me. I thought then that it was going to be hard to catch him! Then he made a mistake and crashed, which was bad luck for him but crucial for us.

“Dovizioso was very strong and we had a good battle. I did three or four laps at maximum and managed to stay in front, but it wasn't easy. I haven't won at the first race since 2005 and these 25 points at this stage are like gold dust, it's a fantastic result for the team to make a 1-2 at race one. I ran out of fuel on the slow down lap, but it was very funny to come to Parc Ferme riding a scooter,” added the reigning world champion and race winner.

A hard charging Jorge Lorenzo, passed both Hayden and Dovizioso on the penultimate lap to make it a Fiat Yamaha 1-2 on the podium. After getting the better of Dovizioso on the final lap Hayden looked all set to secure the final podium place, but the Italian rider managed to slingshot past the American on the run to the line, denying the Ducati rider by the narrowest of margins.

Ben Spies made a great start to his first full Moto GP season taking an impressive fifth on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team.

Ulster Grand Prix gets on board with Aer Lingus

The organisers of the world’s fastest road race, the Ulster Grand Prix, have announced that Aer Lingus have signed up as the event’s airline partner.

The event will this year take place between August 8-14.

Noel Johnston, Clerk of the Course, said: “I’m delighted that Aer Lingus is back on board with us this year. We rely on sponsors to make the Prix happen and so really appreciate that Aer Lingus has stuck by us this past three years.”

Barr has a good weekend at Dean Moor

East Antrim MX rider Martin Barr was in action at the weekend at Dean Moor for round two of the British Masters and took third overall in the MX2 class and fifth in MX1.

He qualified the PAR Honda second in MX2 and fifth in MX1. In the opening race of the MX1 Barr made a good start lying third, but made a mistake and dropped to eighth.

“I just kept pushing after that and ended up third. I was pleased with that,” said Martin.

In his second MX1 race he had a poor getaway from the starting gate and worse was to come as another rider took him out on the first lap.

“I was dead last but managed to get back into eighth by the flag, which gave me fifth overall, which wasn’t too bad,” Martin added.

In his MX2 races he finished second and third which gave him third overall. “In my first race I was right behind my team mate Brad Anderson. He made a mistake and gifted me the race lead, but I also made a mistake a few laps later and he got past again, leaving me runner-up at the flag.

“It was the same in race two, with the two of us out front. At the three-quarter stage of the race my bike cut out and by the time I got it going I had dropped to third and that is where I finished. Still, not a bad weekend's work,” said Martin.