A fastest lap of 1’34.770 saw Honda WorldSBK Team’s Michael Van Der Mark go quickest on the first day of the MOTUL Thai Round at Chang International Circuit in Buriram. Second fastest was Pata Yamaha’s Sylvain Guintoli, followed by Althea BMW rider Jordi Torres completing the top three.
This morning’s session saw Leon Camier go quickest on his MV Agusta as a flurry of lap times came in at the end of FP1, and the British rider posted a 1’36.047 effort to go just under three tenths of a second quicker than Nicky Hayden (Honda WorldSBK Team) and World Championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), followed by the second respective Honda and Kawasaki riders, Michael van der Mark and Tom Sykes.
FP2 saw times tumble at the top of the table and a rush of activity towards the end of the session. With Sykes topping the timesheets around a quarter of the way in with a lap down into the 1’35 bracket, the Kawasaki Racing Team riders initially set a 1-2 in the session ahead of Chaz Davies’ Ducati in P3.
Van Der Mark then became the first to post a lap under 1’35 and the time proved good enough to stay at the top of the timesheets until the end of the session.
Michael van der Mark
“I’m very happy with how today has been. In the morning, the track was quite dirty so I decided not to take any unnecessary risks at the beginning. It was almost impossible to be consistent given the conditions, but obviously it was the same for everyone. In the end I was able to make up some positions, although the result was not exactly what I was looking for. We made a lot of changes to the bike before the afternoon and from the first moment I felt much more comfortable. Later on, we made another big change that turned out to be a good one and then the fast laps started to come. With some small further adjustments, we were able to move up to first place on the final lap and that was it. As I said I’m really happy and looking forward to tomorrow morning; we will use this little time to focus more on our race pace.”
Yamaha’s Guintoli was the only rider to come within two tenths of the Honda rider’s lap, 0.182 seconds off.
“It’s been a good first day here at Chang International! We progressed a lot from this morning, so to progress so much in so little time is really positive. The race rhythm is good, as is the pace on one lap, so we will just carry on working as we are this weekend. To be P2 straight away, for us on a new track where we have only had two sessions, is very positive. We will take the base point from there and just continue having fun, as I really love this track!”
Spaniard Jordi Torres set a late charge for P3, the Althea BMW rider recovering from his elbow injury in testing to rejoin the fight at the front, just ahead of Yamaha’s Alex Lowes.
“This morning the track was very dirty, as if no-one’s ridden it for a long while. I touched the outside kerb at turn 1 and crashed on the third lap, something I didn’t expect and, although I didn’t hurt myself it meant I lost some time. The mechanics worked hard and did a perfect job, in fact in the second session we were able to record the third fastest time. I’m pleased, although this is not a clear reference because the two new sections of asphalt are preventing me from keeping a constant pace and from being precise. We’re on the right track thanks to my mechanics’ hard work, but we have more to do.”
“The grip on the track was really low this morning, and it feels a lot different from last year, so today was really about learning a new circuit with the new bike. We’ve completed plenty of laps without really needing to change the YZF-R1 that much, so after the two sessions it feels pretty good. I’m hoping to make a good step forward tomorrow, mainly with the feeling in the front, but we’re already in Superpole 2 so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow to qualify well for the afternoon’s race.”
Jonathan Rea concentrated his efforts on building for the races in three long stints. He even sat out the first 40 minutes or so of the first session as track conditions were so inconsistent.
“I made three long runs today and no in-outs. The difficult part about today is that the tarmac is so dirty in some areas. I am happy we did almost a full race simulation but I had to come back to the pits with four laps to go, which was not ideal. Aside from the grip level I am enjoying riding here, the circuit layout and just being back here. Last year the bike set up we brought from Phillip Island we did not have to change so much in Thailand. It seems that although the track is completely different here, the Phillip Island settings work quite well again. We have gone a little softer today to try and find grip in the slippy conditions but as more rubber goes down on the track it is going to get faster and faster. It is easy to get lost so we will be patient and check the conditions again in the first practice session tomorrow.”
Nicky Hayden spent most of the first part of the morning session learning his way around the circuit. He and the team were able to immediately find a good base set-up for his Fireblade machine as the American elevated himself to second place; a result that could have been even better without a small mistake at the last turn, during his final attempt before the chequered flag. Despite a small technical problem encountered in free practice two, Hayden was able to bounce back in the final stages of the session to claim sixth place.
“This morning, the track was a bit dirty but it is something that happens at venues where there isn’t constant racing going on throughout the year. We got up to speed fairly quick and kept improving throughout the session but a small mistake on the last lap did not allow me to take first place. In the afternoon we kept the used tyres from the previous session on, trying to get a few laps in and see how I’d feel. As the session went on we went for new tyres. Obviously I’m a little disappointed for that small mistake in the morning and even this afternoon I’d have hoped to make an even bigger step forward, but things were generally pretty smooth. We just had a small problem with a sensor on the bike that cost us a little bit of time, but overall to be sixth at a brand new track cannot be considered a poor result. We got what we wanted, we’re in Superpole 2 and now it’s all about keeping on improving, qualifying well and to be ready for the races.”
Tom Sykes used some of his two hours of track time evaluate a few set-up items in preparation for the first race on Saturday and declared himself pleased with the outcome of this strategy.
“We have quite a good set-up. We were just trying two or three things in the last part of the second session and sacrificed lap time for this. Now our questions have been answered for tomorrow so we know where to go on the set-up and then we need to focus on pace. In the last ten minutes we kept the same tyre on the bike and tried some new things. We can go to sleep and know with 98% certainty what bike set-up we will go with in the race tomorrow.”
Chaz Davies took eighth place in the provisional standings, 0.832 seconds behind current leader Michael Vd Mark (who posted a best lap of 1:34.629). Giugliano closed the opening day right behind his teammate, in ninth position (+0.850).
“This morning the track was really slippery, especially in the re-surfaced areas, so I didn’t want to take any risks. In the afternoon, we managed to improve our lap times significantly right away, but we still have work to do on the setup and honestly I didn’t ride at my best. Tomorrow’s FP3 will be crucial to make a few adjustments, and we have some ideas for this purpose. There’s not much track time available before Superpole, but it should be enough to understand our potential, and we’re not too far from the frontrunners anyway.”
“It’s still early to make evaluations, but overall I’m happy with my progression, especially considering that I’ve never raced on this track, which theoretically shouldn’t be among the most favorable ones for us. During FP2, I had a small issue with the gearbox and I wasn’t able to brake as precisely as I would have liked, but I still managed to clock laps in the 1:35 mark on used tyres. In terms of pace, we’re more competitive than what it would appear on a single lap. Still, during tomorrow’s Superpole, I’ll try to get that in the bag as well in order to make the most of any opportunities during the race.”
Markus Reiterberger rounded out the top ten just ahead of Josh Brookes on the Milwaukee BMW.
“The two sessions didn’t go badly, we’ve qualified for Superpole 2 and this is good but I’m not pleased with tenth place and would have preferred to be higher up. At the start of the session I was in fourth and then fifth and this would have been a better result. We’re only about 8 tenths from the front however, which means we’re fairly close. I felt good on the bike today but it’s the first time I’m riding in hot conditions like this and I’m not used to it.”
The top ten from Friday gain automatic entry to Tissot-Superpole 2 on Saturday, with the qualifying sessions then deciding the final grid positions for both races.
Lights go out at 4pm local time (9am GMT) on Saturday for the first WorldSBK race of the weekend as Jonathan Rea looks to try and tackle the challenge of becoming the first rider since 2003 to win the opening four races of the season.
WorldSBK 2016 – Round Two – Thailand Friday Times
Michael van der Mark Honda NLD 01’34.629
Sylvain Guintoli Yamaha FRA 01’34.811
Jordi Torres BMW ESP 01’35.217
Alex Lowes Yamaha GBR 01’35.224
Jonathan Rea Kawasaki GBR 01’35.31
Nicky Hayden Honda USA 01’35.344
Tom Sykes Kawasaki GBR 01’35.406
Chaz Davies Ducati GBR 01’35.461
Davide Giugliano Ducati ITA 01’35.479
Markus Reiterberger BMW DEU 01’35.498
Joshua Brookes BMW AUS 01’35.504
Leon Camier MV Agusta GBR 01’35.604
Matteo Baiocco Kawasaki ITA 01’35.644
Karel Abraham BMW CZE 01’36.201
Sylvain Barrier Kawasaki FRA 01’36.376
Xavi Fores Ducati ESP 01’36.54
Román Ramos Kawasaki ESP 01’36.561
Alex De Angelis Aprilia SM 01’37.203
Lorenzo Savadori Aprilia ITA 01’37.327
Anucha Nakcharoensri Yamaha THA 01’38.320
Saeed Al Sulaiti Kawasaki QAT 01’38.605
Peter Sebestyen Yamaha HUN 01’39.035
Imre Toth Yamaha HUN 01’39.966
WorldSSP: Wildcard Wilairot fastest on Friday
Wildcard Thai rider Ratthapong Wilairot locked out the top of the timesheets on Friday in Buriram to outpace reigning Champion Kenan Sofuoglu and rival Jules Cluzel.
In FP1, Championship leader Randy Krummenacher was the only rider to pass through the 1’40 barrier, while local fans were delighted to see wildcard rider Ratthapong Wilairot (A.P. Honda Racing Thailand) inside the top three and ahead of PJ Jacobsen (Honda World Supersport Team).
Krummenacher’s teammate and reigning World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu started quietly in 13th position, before the Turkish rider took the top spot back for much of the afternoon as he improved to a 1’39.565. Thai wildcard entry Ratthapong Wilairot, who scored a top 5 last year in Buriram and whose brother Ratthapark won the WorldSSP race on home soil last year, then improved his lap time in the dying minutes to go fastest overall with a 1’39.435.
MV Agusta’s Jules Cluzel improved on a challenging FP1 to go third fastest on combined times, with the Frenchman hoping for a good points haul in Thailand after a difficult race in Australia. He begins the Motul Thai Round in the same position as Sofuoglu, with both rival riders yet to score despite both having shown great pace.
The top ten from Friday’s times go through to the Tissot-Superpole 2 session to fight for the top grid spots on Saturday ahead of the WorldSSP race on Sunday, with lights out for the second race of the year at 14:20 local time (7:20am GMT).
WorldSBK 2016 – Supersport Round Two – Thailand Friday Times
1 RATTHAPONG WILAIROT 59 THA AP HONDA RACING HONDA 1’39.435
2 KENAN SOFUOGLU 54 TUR KAWASAKI PUCCETTI RACING KAWASAKI +0.130
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