Round 2 - Race 1 (Saturday 12th Feb 2016)
KRT challengers Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes shared the lead for all 20 laps of the FIM Superbike World Championship round at Buriram in Thailand between them, with Rea finally running out the winner by only 0.222 seconds. A strong showing from the new Ninja ZX-10R saw championship leader Rea and third placed Sykes finish over nine seconds from the next closest rider.
With high air temperatures of 34°C evident during the contest at the 4.554km long Chang International Circuit the race was hard work for all, but it was the KRT pairing who held the advantage after all the laps had been completed.
Despite the slippery track surface in some areas, causing the riders to take unusual lines at those points, Rea’s race time was better than his equivalent 2015 season win. He set the fastest lap of the race on lap 14, as he chased down Sykes and then passed him.
This was Rea’s third win in succession on the new Ninja, giving him a perfect 75 points after three races, with one more 20-lap race in Thailand to go tomorrow, Sunday 13th.
There was a glimmer of a chance for Sykes to pull back and pass Rea on the final laps today, particularly when a backmarker impeded Jonathan. Despite Tom drawing close to Rea on an inside line into the final corner Jonathan had done enough to make sure the race victory would be his.
Sykes led for 14 laps as he and his machine showed a marked level of race-long improvement in pace compared to the opening round in Australia last month. This was Tom’s first podium of the year and the 20 points he earned today put him third in the overnight championship order, with 41.
JONATHAN REA (Rider Kawasaki Racing Team): “The pace was fast; I did not expect it to be so fast as all weekend we have been slower than last year. So it was a good, fast race. I put my head down and with four laps to go I got a small gap of about 0.7 or 0.8 seconds on Tom. On the final laps I got caught out in the first turn by another rider but it was not so much. I had done all my work by then as I had completely emptied my tank with about four laps to go to try and get away. I am a little bit tired now because I went full gas in those last four laps. We were able to capitalise on that work and I feel like I rode for a stronger win than I have had for a long time. Tomorrow, I expect my bike set-up will be much stronger.”
TOM SYKES (Rider Kawasaki Racing Team): “I am quite happy with that because compared to last year we made a much stronger race. Unfortunately I was struggling in two or three corners, which gave away a lot of advantage. Jonathan was riding very well and on the last laps he was strong but we were also strong at that stage compared to previous races. This is a positive and the gap was not so big to the winner. We have a much better feeling, so this is a good step. The Ninja ZX-10R was working consistently and we had some great lap times, so we’ll see how it goes next race. We need to try and improve for tomorrow but as a start that was quite acceptable. I am disappointed not to win on one hand but we have had a big improvement on the other hand. We are working in the right direction.”
Round 2 - Race 2 (Sunday 13th Feb 2016)
Another electrifying 20-lap race between KRT’s Superbike World Championship competitors Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea saw Sykes win his first race of the year on the all-new Ninja ZX-10R, with Rea just 0.190 seconds behind at the flag. Rea leaves Thailand with 95 points and the series lead while Sykes moved up to second overall today, with 66 points to his credit.
The weekend at the Chang International Circuit will go down as a double 1-2 event for Kawasaki with Rea winning race one on Saturday from Sykes, and that order being overturned after a combative contest around the 4.554km circuit in the heat of the afternoon on Sunday 13th March.
Rea set the fastest lap of the Sunday race, on lap five, as he chased early leader Sykes. Rea was to lead for a time, and then pass Sykes again at some points, only to be re-passed on the way out.
Sykes and Rea looked to have the race between them for most of the race distance but Chaz Davies arrived towards the end and made the battle for the podium places even more complicated.
There was more than one attempt from Jonathan to pass Tom at the end but Sykes defended his position and ended up winning the short run to the finish line from the final right hand corner, with a small advantage of 0.190 seconds to his credit. With Rea second Davies was third, by only 0.314 seconds from Tom, in another thrilling WorldSBK contest for the fans trackside and at home on TV to enjoy.
The second 1-2 in two days for Kawasaki’s official entrants also gives the KRT riders a 1-2 in the championship, with Rea in the lead by 29 points and Sykes a point clear of Michael van Der Mark after four races.
Kawasaki riders have won all of the 2016 season races so far, making a perfect total of 100 points in the Manufacturers’ Championship. Yesterday Jonathan Rea moved to a lone fifth in the all-time race winners’ tally, with 32 career wins. Today Tom drew himself seventh equal in the same ranking, with 27 career victories.
TOM SYKES (Rider Kawasaki Racing Team): “The first win of the year for me and I really had to fight for it. I am happy because Jonathan is at an incredible level in this circuit and we have much such a big step from last year - so I really have to thank all of the boys. They have worked really hard in the winter and even now we are still learning. It was a great race, a great battle. It makes it more satisfying because from about lap six I was struggling with understeer from the front so my corner speed was lower than I wanted. I saw on the big screens at one stage that there were some great riders behind, giving me great pressure, so I had to re-think how to manage the race. To hold on to the win after so-so long is such a great feeling.”
JONATHAN REA (Rider Kawasaki Racing Team): “We made a small improvement today in the bike set-up and from ten laps to go I feel had a much higher pace than Tom. I really wanted to win and I tried two or three times but to win a race against Tom when he is strong, and defending very well, you have to go really deep. Massive credit to him; he did a good job today and beat us flat out. It is good for Kawasaki to have a 1-2 although I would prefer to be the guy in front. Fair play to Tom because I was over my head to win the race yesterday but today I tried my best and got beat. I am sure it was a nice show to watch. We increased our championship lead from Phillip Island and it has been a good day, but I just wanted to win the race. To get beaten is really great for my motivation.”
The KRT squad’s European home base in Spain is where the championship will relocate for the next round, at the magnificent Motorland Aragon circuit. Race weekend will be held between 1st and 3rd April.