Round two of the 2017 FIM WorldSBK Championship was almost a rubber-stamp of the opening meeting in Australia two weeks ago: namely World Champion Jonathan Rea as an unstoppable force to notch his third and fourth race wins of the season in the oppressive heat of the Chang circuit in Buriram, Thailand.
After twitching and flicking his Kawasaki ZX-10RR to a tenth Pole Position and a circuit record on Saturday, Rea then leapt away from the grid and headed the field into the first corner for the opening dash at the twisty venue. Johnny kept a clear view until the chequered flag, again chipping away at the fastest lap register and left teammate Tom Sykes to battle with Ducati duo Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri.
The ‘runaway’ represented the 41st victory on his scorecard, the third in a row in 2017 and took his tally of podiums up to a mighty 91.
“When I saw I had a gap of 0.4 seconds in the first lap I decided to try and put my head down as much as I could,” said #65 who came into the meeting with a decent track record with Kawasaki victorious in all the four previous sprints at Buriram. “As soon as I broke the one second mark I knew that slipstreaming was not going to come into play for the riders behind, so I just set my own rhythm. My pace was 1’33 and honestly I made a couple mistakes on some laps and was still in the 1‘33s. I am really happy with that race.”
Just over twelve hours - and a red-flagged second race - later and Rea made it ‘42’. A fall for principal title rival Chaz Davies helped with the standings and what is now a gap of 30 points for Rea over the Ducati man already. Tom Sykes again got the better of Melandri but for the second step of the box on Sunday as opposed to his third from Saturday.
“The best start to a season ever in my career,” commented Rea after his double-double. “It is important to maximise these points when we can because it is how I built my championships in the past. When we can win, make sure we win, and then we can try and consolidate. These four victories are nearly halfway to my win tally from last year already! It is a good start and I just feel comfortable on the bike.”
“The race win was not on today but second place was, so it was all about making the smartest move possible at the end,” said Sykes after his 87th podium (86 with Kawasaki). “I could see Marco had some limitations so on the last lap I knew I had a margin. Finally on my dashboard there was 1’33.7; which was the fastest of my whole race. We still have to find a little bit more from our package. I keep closing the gap but we need to try and close it a bit faster.”
Alex Lowes’ best result of a tricky first season with Yamaha came at the Chang circuit in 2016 when he rode to sixth place. The rapid Brit went better, and equalled his highest classification of ’17 so far with a fourth spot on Sunday. “The two flyaway races have gone well for me overall, and it has been a solid start of the season,” he remarked. “I feel confident for Aragon. There is still a lot I can improve in myself and there are things the team can improve on the bike, so we can go away for a couple of days rest and then start working toward the next race."
After two long haul excursions Superbike jets west and back to Europe with Motorland Aragon in Spain prepped for round three on the first weekend in April.