Parity: it is almost a buzzword for 2018 WorldSBK, and with technical regulations trimming the advantage the reigning world champions (and series victors four times since 2013) Kawasaki Racing Team had worked so hard to establish. For spectators and fans of the production-based series the limitations seem to be working. Seven different riders have walked the four podiums from Australia and Thailand and, thankfully for defending number one Jonathan Rea, the Irishman has graced the top plinth already.
Rea battled illness and the repercussions of a finger injury at the series opener at Phillip Island last month and came to Buriram and the intense heat of Thailand hungry to assert the formula of dominance that has become his trademark for the last three years.
The 31 year old managed to rule the first sprint after owning Superpole on Saturday. #1 described the feeling as “relief and joy”. “In Phillip Island, at the first round, mentally I was a little bit battered after I experienced sickness, injury and a really tough race one. So it was relief and joy to win,” said Rea, who, in Thailand, gave his manufacturer a boost by confirming participation in the prestigious Suzuka 8 hour endurance race at the end of July. “I led by myself, setting my own rhythm. That was really difficult, especially in the heat, with no reference out in front. I put my head down for a few laps and managed things from there.”
A technical problem with his brakes saw Rea fortunate to rescue fourth place on Sunday.
“I think my problem today must have been a similar problem to Tom yesterday,” Jonathan offered and who now has a narrow two-point lead at the top of the table. “It is what it is. After a very difficult Phillip Island we can go away from here with a first and a fourth, and leading the championship, so it was not a disaster. I am frustrated but with a smile on my face because at least the bike was good and this is the worst track for brakes. Everyone is pushing really hard so when the going gets tough the tough get going.”
Teammate Tom Sykes was also a victim of mechanical gremlins in the heat and was even forced out of the running in race two.
Buriram was a stage for Alex Lowes to show the progression made with the fetching R1 Yamaha. In his third season with the blue machine Alex fought his way to a first trophy of 2018 with a third in race two. “When the race is as close as that and everyone is close together and we are battling, I really, really, enjoy it and that is obviously the main thing,” #22 said. “If you are having fun and everyone is enjoying watching it, I think it is fantastic. I enjoyed the race, I enjoyed the weekend and I will enjoy tonight as well!”
WorldSBK stops the intercontinental trek with round three landing in Aragon and the Motorland circuit in three weeks time.