Amazing scenes and racing at the sweltering Chang Circuit in Thailand for round two of fourteen in the 2016 FIM World Superbike Championship as the Kawasaki Racing Team not only ruled the roost once more but served up some gripping entertainment in both races on Saturday and Sunday. World Champion Jonathan Rea swapped paint with fellow Ninja ZX-10R-mounted teammate Tom Sykes in the dash to the line on the first day of action in Asia to win by the narrowest of margins and the second sprint on Sunday was just as close and even more watchable. Rea hounded Sykes from the first lap and the duo were almost upstaged by the shadowing presence of Ducati’s Chaz Davies in the final circulations. Rea repeatedly tried to seize the advantage; Sykes blocking the line and creating between-your-fingers viewing as centimetres separated the Brits at speeds over 150mph. Eventually Sykes was able to ward off ‘1’ to claim the chequered flag by 0.1 of a second with Davies also in the slipstream. “The first win of the year for me and I really had to fight for it,” said a sweaty Sykes after his major push and hearty defensive work. “I am happy because Jonathan is at an incredible level in this circuit and we have much such a big step from last year - so I really have to thank all of the boys.”
“From ten laps to go I feel I had a much higher pace than Tom,” Rea reflected. “I really wanted to win and I tried two or three times but to win a race against Tom when he is strong, and defending very well, you have to go really deep. Massive credit to him; he did a good job today and beat us flat out.” “I saw on the big screens at one stage that there were some great riders behind, giving me great pressure, so I had to re-think how to manage the race,” added Sykes. “To hold on to the win after so, so long is such a great feeling.” Rea, who now has a 1-1-1-2 record in 2016 thus far had to be content with his triumph from Saturday and also further extension to his (early) cushion in the points table. “I was over my head to win the race yesterday but today I tried my best and got beat. I am sure it was a nice show to watch. We increased our championship lead from Phillip Island and it has been a good day, but I just wanted to win the race. To get beaten is really great for my motivation.”
Kawasaki have now won all four of the World SBK races so far this season and with twelve rounds and twenty-four outings still on the calendar. Rea heads the standings by 29 points with the series heading back to Europe and the MotorLand Aragon circuit in Spain on the first weekend in April.
Yamaha’s Alex Lowes managed an encouraging sixth place on Saturday but was disappointed to retire from a potential top five slot on the new R1 on Sunday with a technical problem. As MotoGP gears up to launch the 2016 campaign this weekend in Qatar, World SBK is really setting the benchmark for first-class and captivating racing. Dates in Spain, Holland and Italy await in April.