The first ever World Superbike (SBK) race to be held in Thailand was won by Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea who dominated the 20-lap Race 1 encounter at the all new Chang International circuit in Buriram. Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team) and Rea’s teammate Tom Sykes joined him on the podium.
Rea who jointly led the standings before today’s opening race, led from the start, building up a 2-second lead over the chasing pack, and winning by 6.329s at the chequered flag.
Former SBK champion Sykes made a great start from the second row, shadowing his team mate for the opening few turns before he was passed by the Aprilia Racing machine of Leon Haslam who then set about hunting down Kawasaki mounted Rea.
Following his lights-to-flag success in race one from pole position, Rea was similarly untroubled in Race 2 as well, getting a strong start to lead from the first corner all the way to the end. A comprehensive show of speed in only his second event with Kawasaki, the faultless performance – which sees Rea extend his lead to ten points in the overall standings – sends out a message to his rivals having now reeled off three wins in four races.
As was the case in Race 1, Haslam might have fancied his chances of at least challenging Rea, but though he achieved his aim of getting a better start, a robust pass by Alex Lowes at the hairpin on the opening lap shuffled him down to fourth. The Aprilia rider clawed his way back to second place – after repaying the favour to Lowes on lap seven – it was too late for him to consider making in-roads as crossed the line five seconds adrift.
Forced to start from the back of the grid after failing to get out of the pit lane in time, Sylvain Guintoli demonstrated his title-winning credentials by battling his way all the way up to sixth place, albeit only after a somewhat contentious final corner tussle with Michael van der Mark, who squeezed his team-mate from the outside of the bend, only to run wide on the exit and snatch the position on the line.
A perfect haul of 50 points has Rea 10 points clear of Haslam, who remains second overall with his third second place finishes. Rea is also already 45 points ahead of Sykes, who is the third place man in the standings. Rea says he was pleased with his Kawasaki ZX-10R from the start of the weekend and was happy to exploit its strengths on the way to the double win.
“For me it has been a perfect weekend with pole position and two race wins – we could not have asked for any more. The bike can always be better but at the beginning of the weekend the Ninja ZX-10R was at a really good level, my pace was really fast, the rhythm was good so we did not necessarily chase something we really could have got lost with.
“Our base setting right now is good and it gives me confidence to push the boundaries and understand the bike. I have not had so many double wins in my career but I have been lucky to have some. They do not come round a lot so I want to savour this moment and reflect on what we have done tomorrow and enjoy these next few days.”