World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea was back on top in Thailand after Friday’s three practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s second round of the season.
The visit to Thailand’s Chang International Circuit in Buriram is WorldSBK’s fourth since its debut in 2015, although many riders were pleased to experience what felt like a cooler than usual temperature despite the usual humidity.
Fresh from his Race 2 podium in Australia, Xavi Fores topped the opening session for Barni Ducati before being replaced on the top spot in FP2 by Eugene Laverty’s Milwaukee Aprilia. The two men ended the day with a collision, both crashing as their bikes made contact between Turns 9 and 10; the only injury sustained was a deep cut to the little tow on Fores’ right foot, but he was declared fit after a check-up.
He may have started the day down in 11th place, but by the end of it Jonathan Rea headed Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes in a green 1-2. They and all other riders continued to adapt to this year’s new regulations, meaning compromises must be found as rev limits could soon be adjusted but gear ratios will remain locked in. Sykes was annoyed in FP3 when his ‘quickest’ time was removed for ignoring a yellow flag; a team member later revealed that timekeepers had cancelled the wrong lap, frustrating the 2013 World Champion who had used a new front tyre in a bid to jump back up into the top ten and move directly through to Superpole 2.
The times were mighty close, the top four separated by less than a tenth of a second while just 0.244 covered the first eight. Rea’s leading effort of 1:33.327 was a tenth quicker than his own race lap record from last year. Behind Sykes, third position was surprisingly occupied by the MV Agusta of Jordi Torres while the top five was completed by Ducati’s Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies, both running extra cooling aids after suffering some issues with the heat in previous years; Davies’ day was not trouble-free, featuring a light crash at Turn 5 in the second session.
Lorenzo Savadori has been declared fit to ride after breaking his left collarbone at Phillip Island a month ago, thus being absent from the two races. The Italian missed the cut today by just over one tenth of a second and is consequently the fastest rider who will need to go into Superpole 1 on Saturday.
The WorldSBK action continues with Superpole and Race 1 on Saturday. British Eurosport coverage for UK viewers will begin at 6am GMT.