Photos: World Superbike
Kawasaki has to be very pleased with the latest addition to their WSB factory squad, after newcomer Jonathan Rea took Superpole and both race wins at the first World Superbike Thailand race.
The weekend at Chang International circuit started well for Rea, as he bested Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) by 0.011 seconds to take his second consecutive pole (Rea also took pole in Australia’s season opener). Rea then proceeded to build up a huge lead in Race 1, ahead of Haslam by 6.329 seconds.
Starting from the second row, Rea’s teammate Tom Sykes did his best to stick with the front-runners, but faded into a battle for third with Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki), Chaz Davies (Aruba Ducati SBK) and Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils). By Lap Nine, Davies had crashed (he got back on the bike and finished in 11th), leaving Sykes to take third and Torres to take fourth.
Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda WSBK) finished fifth in Race 1; Lowes, sixth. However, Lowes missed seeing a yellow flag, and got demoted to seventh after blowing past. As a result, Matteo Baiocco (Althea Racing) moved from seventh to sixth. Troy Bayliss (Aruba Ducati SBK) finished in eighth; David Salom (Team Pedercini), ninth; and Leandro Mercado (Barni Racing) tenth.
In the second race, Lowes avoided that bad luck, garnering third place, behind Rea and Haslam. He was happy about his third WSB podium, saying “Two top-sixes would have been good, but it is what it is.”
Rea, who’s now in first place in the standings (95 points, to Haslam’s 85 and Sykes’ 50), was understandably happy about his 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,” Rea said. “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 .”
Meanwhile, Torres grabbed fourth in Race 2, and Sykes was fifth. After being a dominant force in World Superbike for years, displaying consistent results race after race, Sykes appears to be eclipsed by his new teammate, and he doesn’t seem happy with his new lot. He congratulated Rea on Facebook, but told his fans it was a “difficult day at the office today.”
Guintoli was sixth in Race 2, followed by teammate Michael Van Der Mark. After his convincing dominance in World Supersport last year, no doubt Honda was hoping Van Der Mark would put up similar results in Superbike, but so far, he’s only earned 20 points, good for 11th place overall. It will be interesting to see if the rookie can climb up the ladder as the season progresses, or if it will take him a while to catch on to the new scene.
Race 2’s top 10 was rounded out by Baiocco (eighth), Salom (ninth) and BARNI Racing’s Ducati-mounted Leandro Mercado. Troy Bayliss was in 11th, and after the race, announced he was returning to retirement.
“I’ve had a great time,” Bayliss said. “I didn’t expect to win, it was great to experience it all again but I’ve had my time so I am happy to go home and enjoy my family, and leave it to the young guys.”
So, the Aruba Ducati SBK team will either not replace injured Davide Giugliano at the Spanish and Dutch races, or they will have to line someone else up to take Bayliss’s place.
At this point, we’re two weekend into the World Superbike season, and it looks as if the top five are going to consist of familiar names from the last few seasons, although there may be some newcomers to the top 10. There are four Ducatis in the top 10, but none in the top five. Between Rea and Sykes, Kawasaki seems like they should be able to put up consistent top-five finishes this year, and Haslam and Torres look like they’ll keep Aprilia in the hunt. However, it’s a long season, and once you factor in injuries and crashes, anything can happen …
World Supersport results
Honda-mounted Ratthapark Wilairot took the Supersport win in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, beating out second-place Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and third-place PJ Jacobsen (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpre) by a narrow margin.
Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Kyle Smith (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) were both in the hunt for a podium for a while, but Cluzel (who’d led for much of the race) had to bow out with less than four laps to go, and Smith slid off on the seventh lap.
Wilairot’s win gives him 36 points in the championship, now ahead of Sofuoglo (30).
World Superbike standings after Round 2
1). Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki 95 points
2). Leon Haslam, Aprilia, 85 points
3). Tom Sykes, Kawasaki, 50 points
4). Sylvain Guintoli, Honda, 41 points
5). Jordi Torres, Aprilia, 39 points
6). Chaz Davies, Ducati, 38 points
7). Alex Lowes, Suzuki, 32 points
8). Matteo Baiocco, Ducati, 30 points
9). Nicolas Terol, Ducati, 26 points
10). Leandro Mercado, Ducati, 21 points.