Just two weeks after the sensational season opener at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, WorldSBK the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship heads to Thailand for Round Two, as riders will be looking to build on results or improve on their opening performance of 2017. A stunning piece of modern architecture, Chang International Circuit was built in the area of Buriram just hours away from the capital of Bangkok. WorldSBK makes its third appearance at the circuit, and its set to bring high action and plenty of exhilarating drama.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) couldn’t have asked for a better start to his title defence as he looks to make history with three back-to-back titles. Taking the double win at the circuit he thinks of as his second home, Rea not only secured his 40th career victory but was also the first rider to experience the new grid re-shuffling rule to full effect – starting from ninth in race two and still coming through to take the win. Rea has taken three wins out of four races in Buriram, and with the momentum he has built so far this season it will be hard to stop the flying Northern Irishman.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) could be called the ‘nearly-man’ as the circus rolls into Thailand. The British rider narrowly missed out on securing the victory last time out at Phillip Island as he was locked in two intense battles with Rea, unable to break away from the pack in true Davies style. Happy with his results, he heads to Buriram where he again narrowly missed out on the victory in Race 2 last season, as he was involved in an intense fight with the Kawasaki pair. Davies is yet to stand on the top step of the podium at the Asian circuit, and will be hoping to continue his pace found over the winter and in Australia as he looks to get ahead of the all important green machine, whilst also fighting off his fast team-mate.
Kawasaki Racing Team have a strong record in Thailand, and Tom Sykes will be striving to recreate his heroics from 2016 this weekend. Fans were treated to a paint swapping battle between Sykes and Rea, with Sykes triumphant, securing his first win of the season. Standing on the podium on three occasions out of four at the circuit, the Yorkshireman will be hoping he can be build on his strong record this weekend. Starting Race two at Phillip Island from seventh position two weeks ago, Sykes will no doubt be looking to get a better start in the second race this weekend, as he begins to understand how the grid shuffling rules will work best for his style.
Coming off the back of one of his strongest weekends with Yamaha in the series, British rider Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) heads to Buriram with his eyes on a podium finish, and continuing to produce solid results with his YZF-R1. Last year Lowes endured a mixed weekend at the impressive Chang International Circuit; he secured a top six finish in Race 1 but was forced to retire from Sunday’s Race 2. Lowes’ performance Down Under has proved he is able to fight up at the front in WorldSBK; he was the first rider to start from pole position under the new Race Two grid regulations which will no doubt boost his confidence ahead of Round Two.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) made a big impact upon his return to the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, which holds big promise for the season ahead. In an explosive opening race at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, the Italian crashed out as he was battling for the lead, but was able to stay on his Panigale R for Race 2 to bring home third position. In what will be his first visit to Chang International Circuit, Melandri may start on the back foot, but his wealth of racing knowledge should stand him in good stead for the weekend ahead.
Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) is another rider to keep an eye on at the Thai round of WorldSBK, as the Dutchman holds a solid history in Asia. Securing his maiden World Superbike pole position at the Destination of Speed, van der Mark comes off the back of a learning curve weekend at Phillip Island and will be hoping to have another solid weekend with his new team. Some may have been surprised with Xavi Fores’ (BARNI Racing Team)pace two weeks ago, as the Ducati rider turned many heads back in Australia across both the two day Official Test and the race weekend. Gaining two top six finishes and a strong presence at the front of the pack, it will be hard to shake off the Spaniard heading into the second round.
MV Agusta Reparto Course’s lone rider Leon Camier continues to learn and impress aboard his Italian machine, with the Yamaha Finance Australian Round proving a tough test for the Brit. Heading into Superpole on Saturday with just a handful of laps recorded on the Friday, Camier’s pace around the fast and flowing circuit was nothing short of impressive. He collected a fifth and a eighth respectively around the Island, and it will be interesting to see what he can do with more practise time. Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team still have a fairly steep hill to climb with their new Fireblade, however there are some positives for Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl to take from Phillip Island – gaining a full understanding of the bike will no doubt come quickly to the two experienced riders.
Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing) had a slow start to his 2017 campaign last time out. But with two fourth positions secured around Chang International Circuit last season, Torres is no stranger to the Asian circuit meaning he will be looking to make big steps in Round Two. The Destination of Speed is set to host a nail biting round of the WorldSBK Championship, and with at least five potential winners it won’t be a weekend to miss. Action begins on Friday 10th March from 9.45am (+7 GMT), with Race one on Saturday 11th at 4pm.