WorldSSP: Eyes on the Thai prize 1Promising racing that will keep you on the edge of your seat, the FIM Superport World Championship race is just around the corner and the MOTUL Thai Round is not one to miss. Following on from the gripping opening round in Down Under there are over a handful of men who would take the victory as it’s impossible to count anyone out of the fight. With three different winners around Buriram in the past – Ratthapark Wilairot, Jules Cluzel and Federico Caricasulo – as well as wildcards thrown into the mix, it won’t be short of pure racing action.

Heading into the second round of the season as reigning world champion and championship leader, Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) put on a stunning performance in Australia as he began his title defense with a comfortable and confident style. Moving on to Buriram he will hope to put last season’s performance behind him, as he was forced to retire from the race. However with a fourth position back in 2015, the French rider has proven strong pace here in Thailand. Whilst team-mate Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) has fantastic memories of Chang International Circuit as he secured his debut victory here in a sensational race, and with a competitive pace Down Under he will certainly try to replicate his victory in 2018.

Randy Krummenacher (BARDHAL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) made a strong return to the WorldSSP battle last time out in Australia, taking a podium finish after one season away. Feeling competitive on his Yamaha, it will be interesting to see if this pace can continue into Buriram, where he took a fourth position in 2016’s race. The Swiss rider is still learning with his new team but clearly this isn’t slowing him down.

Another strong Yamaha rider on the grid in Australia was Kallio Racing’s Sandro Cortese, who secured a podium finish in his debut race. Despite two slow starts, the German rider had a competitive pace in Australia and won on a drag to the line to take third position in stunning final lap sprint. Making his debut in Buriram this weekend, it will be another tough test for the 2012 Moto3™ World Champion, but one that he will no doubt embrace and enable him to push his R6 to the limit.

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It was a strong opening round for British rider Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing), as he put his Triumph into the top five around the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. As the WorldSSP circus heads to Thailand, the young Brit will no doubt have seen a boost in his confidence as he battled up at the front of the field. But with a mixed history in Thailand – he was 14th in 2016 – and a very different circuit layout to contend with, it will certainly be a big test this week.

Five-time WorldSSP champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) had difficult opening to his 2018 season, as a big crash raised questions over the need of a skin graft for the Turk. Finishing in 13th position in the re-started opening race, Sofuolgu has sailed through without surgery and will now come out fighting in order to make up for a tough start to his season. Unable to start last year’s Thai WorldSSP race due to a wrist injury, the 33 year old will prepare to revisit a circuit he is yet to win around. With two podiums to his name around Buriram – two second positions – it will be an important weekend on-board his ZX-6R.

Putting in a strong performance for MV Agusta Down Under, Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) took a top six finish to start his season off, and will now make his debut in Thailand as he takes on the 4.5km Buriram circuit for the first time. Hoping to continue his pace with his new team in Asia, it will be a true test for the 2016 STK10000 Champion.

Niki Tuuli (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) was the lone rider out on track for his team in Australia with his team-mate Andrew Irwin sidelined due to injury. Making some initial steps he was able to take a top 11 finish, but will be looking for even more pace as the series rolls on into Thailand. Securing a podium here last season, it’s clear the young rider has a comfortable feeling and will hope to convert that onto his new CBR600RR.

With edge of your seat racing guaranteed from the WorldSSP category, don’t miss a minute from Thailand as the bikes take to the track for Superpole at 14.30 LT(+7 GMT) before the race gets underway at the same time on Sunday.