Kawasaki Motors Press Release: KRT challengers Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes shared the lead for all 20 laps of the first FIM Superbike World Championship race at Buriram in Thailand between them, with Rea finally running out the winner by only 0.222 seconds from his team-mate. A strong showing from the new Ninja ZX-10R saw championship leader Rea and now third ranked Sykes finish over nine seconds from the next closest rider.
With high air temperatures of 34°C evident during the contest at the 4.554km long Chang International Circuit the race was hard work for all, but it was the KRT pairing who held the advantage after all the laps had been completed.
Despite the slippery track surface in some areas, causing the riders to take unusual lines at those points, Rea’s race time was better than his equivalent 2015 season win. He set the fastest lap of the race on lap 14, as he chased down Sykes and then passed him.
This was Rea’s third win in succession on the new Ninja, giving him a perfect 75 points after three races, with one more 20-lap race in Thailand to go tomorrow, Sunday 13th.
There was a glimmer of a chance for Sykes to pull back and pass Rea on the final laps today, particularly when a backmarker impeded Jonathan. Despite Tom drawing close to Rea on an inside line into the final corner Jonathan had done enough to make sure the race victory would be his.
Sykes led for 14 laps as he and his machine showed a marked level of race-long improvement in pace compared to the opening round in Australia last month. This was Tom’s first podium of the year and the 20 points he earned today put him third in the overnight championship order, with 41.
Both Kawasaki riders feel that there are even more improvements to come from their Ninja ZX-10R machines over race distance for race two tomorrow, based on their positive experiences today.
Jonathan Rea stated: “The pace was fast; I did not expect it to be so fast as all weekend we have been slower than last year. So it was a good, fast race. I put my head down and with four laps to go I got a small gap of about 0.7 or 0.8 seconds on Tom. On the final laps I got caught out in the first turn by another rider but it was not so much. I had done all my work by then as I had completely emptied my tank with about four laps to go to try and get away. I am a little bit tired now because I went full gas in those last four laps. We were able to capitalise on that work and I feel like I rode for a stronger win than I have had for a long time. Tomorrow, I expect my bike set-up will be much stronger.”
Tom Sykes stated: “I am quite happy with that because compared to last year we made a much stronger race. Unfortunately I was struggling in two or three corners, which gave away a lot of advantage. Jonathan was riding very well and on the last laps he was strong but we were also strong at that stage compared to previous races. This is a positive and the gap was not so big to the winner. We have a much better feeling, so this is a good step. The Ninja ZX-10R was working consistently and we had some great lap times, so we’ll see how it goes next race. We need to try and improve for tomorrow but as a start that was quite acceptable. I am disappointed not to win on one hand but we have had a big improvement on the other hand. We are working in the right direction.”
Roman Ramos (Team GOELEVEN Kawasaki) placed 12th in race one, while Pedercini Team Kawasaki riders Sylvain barrier and Saeed Al Sulaiti were 16th and 17th respectively, just missing out on championship points. Dominic Schmitter (Grillini Racing Team) was 19th.