MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship action concludes at the Chang International Circuit, with Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) being the first rider to tackle the soaring temperatures. The Spanish rider had a strong opening day and heads into the first of two race days firmly in number one spot.
In what is officially the fastest Friday at Buriram in terms of lap times, Alvaro Bautista steadily improved throughout the session, dipping in and out the pits to refine the Ducati Panigale V4 R settings. Remaining at the top with a 1’32.971, he consolidated his pace ahead of his rivals. Teammate Chaz Davies did not enjoy such a great session and was left disgruntled in 11th.
Seven-time Buriram race-winner Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) looked to work on his settings in FP2, remaining in second place and with a consistent pace. He has an impeccable record in Buriram and will look to retain come racing on Saturday and Sunday. Teammate Leon Haslam was one of the biggest improvers in the session, taking just under a second off of his morning time. He finished seventh.
Rookie Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) took over as leading Yamaha rider, with a stunning charge to third position. His first time in Thailand World Superbike looks set to be a memorable one. Veteran teammate Marco Melandri was firmly inside the top six, finishing in sixth. GRT Yamaha WorldSBK look very strong going into Saturday and Sunday, with vast improvements from both riders.
Leading the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team charge, Alex Lowes was fourth on the combined timesheets and was one of the first riders to improve, continuing to improve throughout the session. The Lincolnshire rider, who achieved a podium at Buriram last season, was ahead of teammate Michael van der Mark, who improved later on in the session. He was able to slot into fifth overall, with Yamaha as a manufacturer looking extremely competitive.
Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) finished in eighth position and as second Ducati rider. The Irishman, who has never managed a race finish better than ninth in Thailand, will hope to translate his pace from today into Saturday’s Tissot Superpole Session.
Britain’s Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea HONDA Team) placed ninth on combined times and at one point of the session, had the track to himself, enabling him to put in some fast times and work on race pace. Teammate Ryuichi Kiyonari improved his time but dropped places. The Japanese star was only 16th at the end of Friday’s track action.
Making it five manufacturers inside the top ten, Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was tenth and continuing to develop the new S1000RR. The 2013 WorldSBK champion completed an important 34 laps throughout the day, whilst German teammate Markus Reiterberger finished in 12th position, just 1.3s from Bautista. 63 important laps were racked up for the team between the two riders across two sessions.
The FIM Supersport World Championship fired into life at the Chang International Circuit on Friday afternoon, with very little to split the front runners! Jules Cluzel (GMT94 YAMAHA), topped the timesheets in his bid to start his weekend on the front foot.
2016 WorldSSP Buriram race winner, Jules Cluzel (GMT94 Yamaha), picked the pace up towards the end of the second session to head the field with a rapid lap time putting him comfortably at the front. Having been only third in FP1, Cluzel’s changes between the sessions clearly worked. His fellow countryman and teammate, Corentin Perolari struggled in the searing Thai heat and could only manage 14, although improving through the session.
Switzerland’s Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) was the best of the rest, with a late improvement to reduce the gap to Cluzel to 0.190. Federico Caricasulo couldn’t match his teammate on the opening day and finished second. Both riders are previous winners in Thailand, making for a mouth-watering prospect on Sunday afternoon!
Hector Barbera (Team Toth by Willirace) made his debut at the Chang International Circuit and was fourth, just under 0.600s off the top of the timesheets. The Spaniard improved throughout the weekend in Australia and will be looking to do the same in Thailand. Is he a rather unexpected podium threat on his Thai debut?
Raffaele De Rosa (MV AGUSTA Reparto Corse) was sixth quickest and over 0.8s from the top spot, leaving himself and his team with work to do for Saturday and Sunday. His teammate, Federico Fuligni, could only managed 16th. Both riders struggled throughout the session but improved at the very end.
22-year-old Austrian sensation Thomas Gradinger (Kallio Racing) was fifth and didn’t improve on his lap time from FP1. He continues his ambition to become the first Austrian rider to finish on the podium in World Supersport. Fellow Kallio Racing rider Isaac Viñales finished in seventh overall, making his WorldSSP debut in Thailand. Loris Cresson, the third Kallio Racing rider, was only 14th.
Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was in good form and was a constant name inside the top five. He was unfortunate to be pushed down to eighth place at a circuit of which he achieved his joint-best result at in 2017 (6th). On the other side of the garage, 2017 WorldSSP champion, Lucas Mahias, was a place behind in ninth.
Completing the top ten was Ayrton Badovini (Team Pedercini Racing), who was 1.3s off the top slot. Behind him was an impressive showing from Jaimie van Sikkelerus (MPM WILSport Racedays), whilst fellow Dutch rider Rob Hartog (Team Hartog – Against Cancer) returned to action and finished 19th.
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