Reigning WorldSBK king Jonathan Rea has opened his 2017 title defense in dream fashion with three consecutive victories.
The third race of the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship in Thailand on Saturday brought a third successive victory for defending WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), after he set a new pole record lap earlier in the day. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) joined Rea on the podium after a 20 lap race in stifling temperatures of 36°C.
The Northern Irish rider held on to the lead after a good start saw him take the holeshot from pole. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati), Sykes and Davies positioned themselves behind Rea's Kawasaki ZX-10R in the early stages but none of them could match the World Champion’s pace.
Davies won the battle for second, finishing six seconds behind Rea and just under two seconds in front of the pursuing Sykes. Melandri was just off the podium, less than a tenth of a second behind Sykes, whilst a good performance from Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) saw the Dutchman complete the top five.
Another solid race from Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) saw his good form continue in sixth place, with the top ten completed by Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team), Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) and rookie Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team).
Nearing the end of the race, in which the riders completed over 91km in the intense heat and humidity of Buriram, Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) dropped back from the fight for eighth with Torres and finished 11th.
A technical issue with the RSV4 RF of Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) at turn 5 on the final lap cost him points when he was running in seventh, whilst Ayrton Badovini (Grillini Racing Team) crashed on lap 6 and suffered a DNF, though fortunately the Italian was unharmed in the incident.
The second WorldSBK of the Round 2 weekend in Thailand takes place at 4pm local time on Sunday at the Chang International Circuit.
Record Superpole Lap for Rea
In the sweltering heat of the Chang International Circuit on Saturday it was WorldSBK World Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) who took pole position in the Tissot Superpole 2 session, thanks to a superb new pole record lap (1’32.957) of the Thai track.
With an ambient temperature of 36°C and a track temperature of 50°C at the Buriram venue the heat was on, but Rea kept ice cool to deliver a superb pole lap and set down a marker for his rivals. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) had provisional pole in the final seconds, but Rea outdid him by +0.235s on his final lap, whilst Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) also qualified on the front row, +0.5s off pole.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) was +0.072 behind Melandri in fourth as his good form continues.
There were crashes in Tissot Superpole 2 for Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) and Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team), at turns 6 and 1 respectively, with both riders losing the front end. Davies ended up fifth on the grid after returning to the track following his crash whilst Torres is tenth.
Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) completes row 2, whilst Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia), Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) and Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) will feature on the third row.
Behind Torres it is Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Markus Reiterberger (Althea BMW Racing Team) who complete the fourth row for Race 1 at Round Two in Thailand, though of course there will be a grid reshuffle for Race 2 on Sunday as dictated by the new regulations for 2017.
Camier and Savadori were the two riders to graduate from Tissot Superpole 1,
with rookie Randy Krummenacher (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and the experienced Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) just missing out and therefore ending up 13th and 14th respectively on the grid.
Cluzel Shows his Mettle
Saturday’s WorldSSP action at the Chang International Circuit saw Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) produce a lap of 1’37.683 for pole position, in a Tissot Superpole 2 shootout which took place in scorching hot (36°C) conditions.
Despite suffering a fracture of the sacrum bone in a final lap crash at Phillip Island at Round 1, Frenchman Cluzel demonstrated his tenacity to lap quicker than the rest of the field in the intense Thai heat. Just behind him on the grid is impressive local wildcard Chalermpol Polamai (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team), who lapped +0.447s behind Cluzel.
French rider Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) completes the front row having qualified +0.473s behind his compatriot Cluzel, with another Thai wild card Decha Kraisart (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) heading a second row which will also feature Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Kyle Smith (GEMAR Team Lorini).
Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team), Hikari Okubo (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) and Christian Gamarino (BARDAHL EVAN BROS. Honda Racing) are on row three, with Kyle Ryde (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Gino Rea (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) on the fourth row. Rea appeared to have technical issues towards the end of Tissot Superpole 2 and lapped +1.74s off P1.
From the earlier Tissot Superpole 1 session Caricasulo and Khairuddin were the riders to make it through to Superpole 2. Meanwhile Kallio Racing colleagues Niki Tuuli and Sheridan Morais (Kallio Racing), along with Robin Mulhauser (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda), were just behind Khairuddin in Superpole 1 and therefore start the second WorldSSP race of 2017 on row five.
Indeed Sunday’s WorldSSP race in Thailand will commence at 2.30pm local time at the Chang International Circuit.