Not much changed as the Eni Superbike World Championship moved from Australia to a new venue in Thailand. Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea and Aprilia Racing Team’s Leon Haslam are quickly making it a two-man race to the championship, though there still is a long way to go. Let’s see who is enjoying life on the Upside and who is suffering on the Downside.
2015 Thailand SBK Commentary, Upside
Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R: Rea is getting off to a blistering start. He has won three of the first four races, and finished second once. This weekend, he grabbed the pole and won both races without ever trailing or being seriously challenged. The only surprising thing is that Rea only has a 10-point lead in the Eni Superbike World Championship.
Leon Haslam – Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 RF: With a win and three second-place finishes so far, you might think Haslam would have the series lead. He doesn’t, but he’s only 10 points shy of the top spot. Things were lonely for him in second place in both Thai races, and he’s leading the way for the Red Devils. He may not be in first, but he already has a 35-point lead over Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Sykes who sits in third.
“The team did a great job,” Haslam observed. “Between the two races we took a big step forward. I’m pleased with the weekend, especially because compared to Friday, we have really improved and I can’t wait to get to Aragon. Being on the podium for the first two rounds of the season is definitely a great starting point.”
Jordi Torres – Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 RF: In his WSBK rookie year, Torres is already impressing. He sits fifth in the standings, which isn’t bad considering he crashed out in Australia. If he finished that race, Torres is in the top three. Still, two fourths in Thailand show that Torres is the real deal in World Superbike, and he was just short of a podium in the first race after a long battle with Sykes.
“When I found myself behind Sykes I thought back to Phillip Island,” Torres explained, “where I crashed whilst trying to overtake him, and I decided to stay calm and study him in Race 1 without taking any risks. That was useful for me in Race 2. In the end I finished in the same position, but I’m learning lap after lap.”
Alex Lowes – Voltcom Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000: He went down in the very slow turn 12 in Race 1, but remounted to take seventh (after being penalized along with Troy Bayliss for overtaking under yellow), and followed that up with a podium in Race 2. Like almost everyone else, he’s suffering in the standings (63 points back of Rea), but Lowes put in a good showing in Thailand.
After the race, Lowes was deservedly upbeat: “I’m really happy to be back on the podium. It’s a third place but for us it means a lot after Phillip Island! It really should have been two podiums today, I just made a small mistake because I was determined to catch Leon [Haslam] and get second. As a team we’ve all worked so hard, but the result is that we are back on the podium and back in the front group, and if we can keep a bit more consistency like this for the rest of the year, then it will be a great season for us.”
Troy Bayliss – Ducati SBK Team Panigale R: Finishes of ninth (back one due to a penalty) and eleventh aren’t a lot to celebrate for a legendary figure like Bayliss, but as long as he finishes and stays in one piece, I’m going to consider that an upside. Bayliss did a yeoman’s job filling in for the injured Davide Giugliano, and this is likely the Australian’s last-ever WSBK appearance.
“I was lucky enough to finish my career fit and healthy and I’ve seen that I can still be fast,” Bayliss said, “but now I am ready to return to enjoying life with my family in Australia. I want to thank everyone for their support and now I leave things to the young talents.”
2015 Thailand SBK Commentary, Downside
Tom Sykes – Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R: The 2013 SBK Champion is quickly looking like the junior partner on his own team. He made the podium for the first time this year in the first Thai race, but his results have already dug him into a 45-point hole in the WSBK standings after just two rounds.
Sylvain Guintoli – Pata Honda World Superbike Team CBR1000RR: The reigning WSBK Champion does not look like he’s going to be repeating. Mediocre finishes of fifth and sixth places means he’s 54 points behind Rea. Fourth place in the standings doesn’t seem that bad, but it does when you’re trailing the leader by more than two races. “It’s only my second race on the bike,” Guintoli said after the race, “and I’m still suffering from the neck injury in these dehydrating conditions.”
Chaz Davies – Ducati SBK Team Panigale R: He crashed in both races, though he did remount to finish in the points twice. Sitting in sixth in the standings, Davies is 57 back of Rea. Davies was succinct: “I’m really disappointed with how today’s races went.”
Team EBR Hero: The Indian/American alliance had two DNFs due to technical issues in Race 1, and no one on the grid for Race 2. That is not getting it done.
Pata Honda World Superbike Team: Rookie Michael van der Mark’s CBR1000RR didn’t make it to the finish in Race 1, and Guintoli’s CBR had a technical problem that put him in the back of the field at the start of Race 2 (though Guintoli did manage to pass half the field almost instantly). Honda is all about reliability, so this was a shocker.