In what has been a dream opening six races in Alvaro Bautista’s WorldSBK career, he took yet another race win to become the first rider since Neil Hodgson to win the opening six races of a WorldSBK season, back in 2003! Bautista completed another lights to flag victory in dominant fashion on his way to more records!
With lights turning green, the final race of the Pirelli Thai Round got underway, with Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) able to hold onto first position from start to finish. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) couldn’t take a challenge to Bautista but had to deal with Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in the early stages. At the end of the first lap the leading trio had a slight gap over Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) and Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK).
Soon, the big battle came from the scrap for fifth position, with van der Mark, Melandri, Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) and Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati). Turn 3 was once again a prime overtaking area, with Melandri trying a move on van der Mark at Turn 3, with both running wide and allowing Chaz Davies to get a better drive down the straight and by Turn 4, the Welshman had got ahead of both Yamaha riders!
Melandri retook Davies at Turn 8 but the race winner from Buriram in 2018 fought back at Turn 12. Cortese and van der Mark made the exact same succession of moves; a thrilling spectacle in the early stages.
Luck wasn’t going the way of Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), who had to retire his S1000RR on lap four. Melandri and Davies had a close call on the same lap, with the Italian forcefully moving aside his former teammate at Turn 9, allowing van der Mark to go through, whilst Chaz Davies had to recover right at the back of the group. It wasn’t long however before Davies himself would suffer the same fate as Sykes. The 29-time WorldSBK race winner retired on lap eight, concluding a wretched start to the season.
Whilst the front eight remained fairly static in an intriguing battle, further down the field, Toprak Razgatliolgu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) began to reel in Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) and got ahead of him in the final part of the race to win the battle of the Independent Kawasaki riders.
Bautista dominated to take the victory by more than ten seconds, ahead of Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes. Michael van der Mark was able to hold off a late charge by Leon Haslam, whilst Marco Melandri finished in sixth position for a fifth race in a row. Van der Mark’s fourth place means he stretches his finishing run to 21.
Behind the leading six, Sandro Cortese became the first German since Max Neukirchner in 2008 to finish six consecutive races inside the top eight, with his seventh position. Eighth belonged to Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), a great performance on his debut in Thailand. Razgatlioglu managed to hold off Jordi Torres as they completed the top ten.
With only three more finishers it was Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) in 11th, with Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea HONDA Team) in 12th on his debut in Thailand, whilst Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) scored his first WorldSBK points with 13th. Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) failed to start, whilst Argentine, Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) retired after just one lap. Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea HONDA Team) and Thitipong Warokorn (Kawasaki Thailand Racing Team) didn’t start due to their Tissot Superpole Race crash.
The FIM Supersport World Championship race at the Chang International Circuit was once again a thrilling 17-lap encounter. Jules Cluzel (GMT94 YAMAHA) took a stunning win after leading the majority of the race, although having to battle hard with the rest of the front running protagonists too.
On lap 1, Jules Cluzel got a brilliant start from pole position but slotting in behind him at Turn 1 was Isaac Viñales (Kallio Racing), who got a rapid start from sixth position. Federico Caricasulo remained third after the start initially before Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) pushed his way through into the leading three.
Isaac Viñales lost his initial advantage down the straight and by the end of the opening lap, was fourth, behind Cluzel, Caricasulo and Japanese sensation, Okubo. 2nd place starter, Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) had a terrible start and was down in eighth.
In the early stages of the race, two seconds covered the leading eight riders. Austrian rider Thomas Gradinger was making good progress, lapping the fastest rider on track on lap two. However, just a few laps later, his Yamaha YZF R6 was forced to retire at Turn 3, after it began smoke began to emit from it.
Isaac Viñales was continuously impressing throughout the race, making a brilliant pass at Turn 4 ahead of Federico Caricasulo, before challenging Jules Cluzel at the final corner for the lead, before running wide and allowing Cluzel to take him back on the run down the front straight. Meanwhile, Randy Krummenacher began to recover from his bad start, fighting his way ahead of Hector Barbera (Team Toth by Willirace) and Raffaele de Rosa (MV AGUSTA Reparto Corse).
As the race battle continued on, Turn 3 was a hub of overtaking activity, with little success making it a great spectacle, resulting in the eventual drag-race to Turn 4. With the leaders tripping themselves up, Hikari Okubo and Randy Krummenacher were able to close down the margin to the front. Krummenacher managed to get ahead of Okubo with five laps left.
Out front, hard moves were now being placed, with Jules Cluzel and Federico Caricasulo continuously swapping positions, resulting twice in Caricasulo being pushed wide at Turn 8 – both occasions seeing him lose more places. The top three battling was a fantastic spectacle, but Randy Krummenacher continued to close, in his quest to give Switzerland its first back-to-back WorldSSP wins.
On the penultimate lap, just 0.7s covered the leading four, with Hikari Okubo now being dropped in fifth. Caricasulo went for a move at Turn 3 for the lead, holding it until yet again being pushed wide at Turn 8. This allowed teammate Krummenacher to come through into second, with the battling behind Cluzel starting to pave the way for the Frenchman to have an easier final lap.
With the last lap, Caricasulo started to push in what was now just a battle for second place, taking his teammate at Turn 3, before Krummenacher took him back down the straight to Turn 4. Isaac Viñales wasn’t out of it yet either, as he tried at Turn 8, only with Caricasulo to fight back straight away at Turn 9.
Jules Cluzel took his 18th WorldSSP race win and Yamaha’s 80th in the class! Krummenacher fought back to finish second, with Caricasulo holding on for third. Viñales, De Rosa and Okubo were just behind, whilst completing the top ten was Hector Barbera, Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) who started from the back of the grid, Loris Cresson (Kallio Racing) and Hannes Soomer (MPM WILSport Racedays) rounding out the top ten.
Completing the points were Corentin Perolari (GMT94 YAMAHA), Peter Sebestyen (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda), Jaimie van Sikkelerus (MPM WILSport Racedays), Rob Hartog (Team Hartog – Against Cancer) on his comeback from injury, and Maria Herrera (MS Racing).
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