Still perfect after two rounds: Jonathan Rea admitted he was nervous about starting ninth in Race 2 because passing is difficult at the Chang International Circuit, "especially," he noted, "with the speed of the Ducatis." Rea won by more than four seconds.
Jonathan Rea dominated Round 2 of the FIM Superbike World Championship this past weekend at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit. The two-time and defending series champion led all three practices on his Kawasaki ZX-10RR and then broke the track record in qualifying. Starting from pole, he won both 20-lap races—the second of which was red-flagged and later restarted—by a combined margin of more than 10 seconds.
Fellow title contender Chaz Davies benefitted most from the red flag, caused by fluid left on the track after Lorenzo Savadori’s crash. Second in Race 1, Davies himself fell one lap earlier but he was able to pick up his Ducati Panigale R and continue, albeit in last. After the restart, the Welshman passed two-thirds of the field to finish sixth, one spot ahead of American Nicky Hayden on the new Honda CBR1000RR SP2.
Despite the oppressive heat, Rea’s lap times on Sunday never varied more than 0.3 of a second. Teammate Tom Sykes finished third and second, respectively, while Marco Melandri on the second official Ducati pocketed fourth and third. Both factory MV Agustas—Leon Camier in Superbike and American PJ Jacobsen in Supersport—blew up on Sunday, dropping the pair to ninth and 13th overall in points.
Now credited with 42 career World Superbike victories, Rea leaves Thailand with a 30-point advantage over Davies. Sykes is third overall, with Alex Lowes on the vastly improved Yamaha YZF-R1 fourth. Melandri currently holds down fifth, while Hayden—ninth in Race 1 and now with 21 points to his credit—is 15th in the standings. Motorland Aragon in Spain is the next stop for the series on March 31-April 2.
Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team (P1, P1): “It is important to maximize these points when we can because it is how I built my championships in the past. When we can win, make sure we win, and then we can try and consolidate. We took the bike setup we had from Phillip Island to here and it just pretty much worked. That is unheard of, so I have a good bond with the bike.”
Marco Melandri, Aruba.it Racing Ducati (P4, P3): "In such difficult conditions, on a new track for me, it feels good to be close to the front. Being passed at the very last turn in both races isn’t ideal, but I struggled with braking since the first free-practice session and it wasn’t possible to be more aggressive in what is the most critical corner of the circuit."
Tom Sykes, Kawasaki Racing Team (P3, P2): “The race win was not on today but second place was, so it was all about making the smartest move possible at the end. Marco [Melandri] was faster than me in the twisty section before the last corner so I had to put the lap together. Finally, on my dashboard there was 1:33.7, which was the fastest of my whole race.”
Chaz Davies, Aruba.it Racing Ducati (P2, P6): "Finishing sixth is a salvage after the crash, but we could have been close to the podium at the restart. Still, we have many more points than after two rounds last year, and now we’ll go to more favorable tracks. The championship is long.”
Alex Lowes, Pata Yamaha Team (P6, P4): "I didn't have the best first two or three laps, so I lost the connection with the front group when Eugene Laverty passed me. I managed to get past him again, but the front group was just too fast. Perhaps, if I would have been there at the start, I could have challenged them a bit more. I feel confident for Aragon."
Nicky Hayden, Red Bull Honda WorldSBK (P9, P7): "The bike worked much better after the red flag, and I was actually able to do my best lap times of the weekend. I found myself in that group fighting for fifth place, but then Leon [Camier]’s bike started blowing smoke. That cost me some time, so after that it was a lonely race for seventh."
Michael van der Mark, Pata Yamaha Team (P5, DNF): "We had a technical problem with the bike in race two. In the morning warm-up, we tried something on the bike setup, but I was not so keen on it so we went back to a setup almost similar to what we had yesterday. Then, we had a red flag. It was a shame because yesterday was really good, but that is racing."
Leon Camier, MV Agusta Reparto Corse (P8, DNF): "I think we made some good steps with the chassis this weekend, but I am very disappointed not to finish the race as I felt really strong on the bike. When I was fighting with Jordi Torres, I felt oil on my foot. It was getting slippery, and then we got black-flagged."
Stefan Bradl, Red Bull Honda WorldSBK (P10, DNF):" When Chaz Davies got past, I did my best to stay with him, but I hit the brakes a little bit too late and didn’t release them early enough before ending up on the bump in the middle of Turn 12. It’s a shame, because we could have easily have scored another top-10 result, if not better."
PJ Jacobsen, MV Agusta Reparto Corse (DNF): "Today wasn’t so good for the team and me, but I am sure we can win races and be in the top positions soon, as we showed at Phillip Island. We will move on to Aragon, where we hopefully can be back winning races and fighting for the championship."