Crescent Fixi Suzuki made a positive start to the second round of the World Superbike Championship at Imola in Italy with Leon Camier finishing 10th and John Hopkins 18th in today's opening Qualifying session.
Camier was joined by team mate Hopkins for the first time in a race weekend and both riders immediately began to get back into the groove. Camier last rode at Phillip Island in Australia nearly five weeks ago, but Hopkins' last competitive laps were in October 2011 - he missed the opening race in Australia after breaking his hand testing - so his priority in the first Qualifying was to get comfortable again on the Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000 before pushing too hard.
In this afternoon's Qualifying, Camier charged into the top three before being shuffled down the order at the end of the session when there was more traffic on the track. Hopkins - who had not ridden at Imola since a test in 2009 - spent time relearning the circuit. He was hampered by a technical problem in the morning and was unable to do as many laps as he wanted, but managed to go one-and-a-half-seconds faster in the afternoon qualifying session.
Leon Camier - 10th, 1:48.556:
"Today was not so bad and I'm pretty happy. I would've been further up the standings today but got held up by slower riders at the end of the session. The track has good grip and it's consistent, so today we were able to just go out, put in the laps; and try some ideas. After the long gap since Phillip Island, I felt a bit stiff on the bike at first, but soon started to get a good feeling with the Crescent Fixi Suzuki again. We have a good base set-up and the only thing we need to work on is the gearing and the gearbox. If we can get that sorted out, I can consistently go about three-tenths-of-a second quicker - I want to be in the fight with the front guys here in Imola."
John Hopkins - 18th, 1:49.790:
"Today was all about getting back in the groove and being comfortable on the bike and I am happy with what we did. The hand feels good and there were no problems with it at all. I lost some time in the morning session, but went one-and-half-seconds quicker this afternoon, so we're heading in the right direction for sure. Apart from a few laps in the Phillip Island tests, the last time I rode a bike was five months ago, so I took it prettily steadily today. We have a good base setting and now we need to push harder and see what we can achieve."
Jack Valentine - Team Manager:
"I think today went pretty well. Leon was happy with his base set-up and spent a lot of the time trying different tyres to see which worked well and which didn't. He was well up the leaderboard this afternoon and probably would've stayed in the top six if it hadn't been for the traffic. John did what we wanted him to do; he built up gradually and got used to the bike again. He went quite a bit quicker this afternoon and we know there's more to come. I'd be happy for John to keep improving and get into Superpole.
"We have a slightly upgraded Yoshimura engine for both riders for tomorrow and race day and, with some setting tweaks tonight; we hope the package will be competitive."
Friday Superbike Qualifying: 1 Smrz (CZE-Ducati) 1:48.146, 2 Lascorz (ESP-Kawasaki) 1:48.176, 3 Sykes (GBR-Kawasaki) 1:48.246, 4 Biaggi (ITA-Aprilia) 1:48.247, 5 Rea (GBR-Honda) 1:48.321, 6 Haslam (GBR-BMW) 1:48.328. 10 Leon Camier (GBR-Crescent Fixi Suzuki) 1:48.556. 18 John Hopkins (USA-Crescent Fixi Suzuki) 1:49.790.