2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview

2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: Kawasaki's Jonathan Rea
2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea

The 2017 World Superbike Championship is at WOT, the series already heading into round two of 13 at Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand. The Thai circuit joined the WorldSBK series in 2015, and only Kawasaki ZX-10R machinery has claimed victory there in four races.

Two-time WSBK Champion Jonathan Rea doubled there aboard the Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R in 2015. The Northern Irishman claimed race one there last season, and race two was won by Rea’s teammate, 2013 World Superbike Champion Tom Sykes.

As the 2017 SBK series heads to Thailand for round 2, Rea is already dominating.  He doubled two weeks ago at the opening round of 2017, piloting the all-new ZX-10RR to the win ahead of Aruba.it Racing Ducati’s Chaz Davies in both races. Claiming third in race one was Sykes; Davies’ teammate, the returning Marco Melandri, claimed the final podium position in race two.

2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: Ducati's Chaz Davies
2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: Ducati’s Chaz Davies

Many were worried about the race-two grid shuffle, as the first-race podium finishers reverse their positions, and start from the third row. This meant that the 30-year-old Rea had to start from position nine of race two. He didn’t get to the lead until lap 17 of 22, but from there he went to take his 40th-career SBK win by 0.025 of a second ahead of Davies.

Rea is looking to carry his momentum from the past two years at Chang SBK, and also his Phillip Island performance, to this weekend’s Thailand SBK round.

“I am really excited to go to Buriram after a great start to the season,” Jonathan Rea says. “I’ve spent the last week here in Phuket on holiday with my family and some friends and it has been great acclimatizing to what is the hottest race of the year while enjoying some amazing Thai cuisine. It is always nice to ride in front of the Thai fans and we always have so many Kawasaki fans in the crowd.

“The track itself is a mix of everything; heavy braking, flowing sections and long fast straights. It will be important to confirm our base setting here as the bike has changed quite a lot since 2016. We will focus on putting together some strong free practices to make sure we are able to fight at the front in both races.”

2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: Yamaha's Alex Lowes
2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: Yamaha’s Alex Lowes

Rea’s biggest threat will be the Ducati 1199 R piloted by the Welshman Davies, who just claimed 4-3 results last year.

“We started the year well and I can’t wait to get back on track,” Chaz Davies says. “In retrospect, I don’t think we’ve ever really been in the ballpark with the setting in Thailand and, knowing what we know, we understand better how to stay within our window.

“I’m quite excited to try the 2017-spec Panigale R there, as I think the long straights are going to be less of a problem because we made some improvements in terms of power. The track is hard on tires and racing is going to be tough because of the heat, but there’s a lot to look forward to.”

2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: BMW's Jordi Torres
2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: BMW’s Jordi Torres

Besides the other two podium finishers at Phillip Island, Sykes and Melandri, Britain’s Alex Lowes put in an impressive performance at Phillip Island. The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team YZF-R1 pilot finished fourth in both races.

Lowes’ teammate, Michael van der Mark, claimed his first maiden World Superbike pole position in Thailand last season. The Dutch R1 rider finished 3-4 there last season.

Other riders to look out for in Thailand are Barni Racing Ducati’s Xavi Fores, who had a strong presence at the front of the Phillip Island round, and MV Agusta Reparto Corse F1 rider Leon Camier, who claimed a 5-8 finish at Phillip Island. Althea BMW’s Jordi Torres had a slow start at Phillip Island, but secured two fourth-place finishes at “The Destination of Speed” last season, so he’ll also present a threat.

2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: Honda's Nicky Hayden
2017 Thailand World Superbike Preview: Honda’s Nicky Hayden

The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team of the sole American in WSBK, Nicky Hayden, and Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl, struggled with their new CBR1000RR SP2 Fireblades at Phillip Island. Both will look to get some additional seat time to further tune the new CBRs.

Heading into Thailand Superbike, Rea has a perfect 50 points, 10 ahead of Davies and 24 ahead of Sykes.

BeIN Sports will provide coverage of Thailand SBK Race 1 at 9 a.m. ET Saturday, and race 2 at 9 a.m. Sunday.

2017 Thailand World SBK Schedule (all local times, CET6):

Friday
09:45 – 10:45 SBK FP1
14:30 – 15:30 SBK FP2

Saturday
10:45 – 11:10 SBK FP3
13:30 – 13.45 SBK Superpole 1
13:55 – 14:10 SBK Superpole 2
16:00 SBK Race 1

Sunday
11:30 – 11:45 SBK Warm-up
16:00 SBK Race 2