Alex Lowes snatches first place from Rea on opening WSBK day in Thailand
After the second Free Practice session – held in temperatures nudging 39 degrees Celsius – the man at the head of the combined WSBK timesheets on the opening day of on-track action at the Chang International Circuit was Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki). The 24-year-old Englishman was the first rider to break the 1’35 barrier to record a 1’34.685s lap time with four minutes to go this afternoon.
Alex Lowes:“Today has been good! It’s always nice to come to a new track, to learn the layout and try to understand the challenges of each corner. I really like the mid-section – you have to be quite physical on the bike which suits my style quite a bit. It’s been a good day, we’ve worked hard and I’ve done a lot of laps, completing two 10-lap runs in the last session, but it’s only Friday and the times are going to get a lot quicker so we’ll see what happens. The heat is obviously hard for everyone, and it’s going to be tough on the tyres but I’m enjoying it! I enjoyed it in Australia even though we didn’t get the results we deserved and I’m enjoying it again here. Thanks to the lads for working really hard, I’ll keep trying and see if I can get some good results on Sunday.”
As he was edged out of first place after dominating the morning session, long-time leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) tried hard to retake the top spot, closing to within 0.066s of his fellow Briton with his final lap, the pair comfortably ahead of the chasing pack.
Jonathan Rea –“I’m very happy with how today has gone. We’ve used both tyres and we understood the benefits of both. I’m really comfortable with the grip to be honest and we don’t have anything major to work on going into tomorrow.”
“Sector four seems really good for me, there are a few turns we need to brush up on, though. When you see the pace we set this morning compared to the afternoon, everybody has caught up but whatever the pace is, we should be able to cope with it.”
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team), Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils), Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda World Superbike) rounded out a top six that saw five manufacturers represented and separated by less than a second.
Leon Haslam – P4 – “It was a good start. Since this is a new circuit we started with the basics. This morning there wasn’t a lot of grip on the track. I used only one tyre for the entire session and in any case I was quite fast. I did the same in the afternoon. We’re working the same way we did at Phillip Island, focusing on race performance and the setup on the RSV4. I think there is still room for improvement in a few areas like coming out of turns, which will let us take better advantage of the straight stretches. The track will also improve in terms of grip so times will drop even further.”
Sylvain Guintoli – P6, 1m35.570s – “We made some good improvements after the morning session so that was a positive this afternoon and the bike felt much better. We need to carry on working there but I’m enjoying the track and we’ve closed the gap. I’m trying hard now and feeling a lot better physically than I did in Australia. That’s the main thing from today, so that’s nice because I suffered a lot in Phillip Island. I can still feel the injury but it’s a lot better and I’m a lot more focused and more hungry here. We can’t do damage limitation every race so we need to try to step it up a bit now. It was funny this afternoon because I was supposed to come in to try some different tyres but, as I was coming into pit lane I was thinking about the lines through sector three and missed my garage entry! I went st raight out again and saw that the session was nearly finished, so there wasn’t much point coming in for new tyres. So, although I didn’t plan it, I ended up doing the whole session on one set of tyres. We’ll try the soft option tomorrow!”
The remaining top-ten riders in the overall standings were Troy Bayliss (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team), Matteo Baiocco (Althea Racing Ducati), Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) and David Salom (Team Pedercini Kawasaki).
Matteo Baiocco – P8: “I’m pleased because all day we’ve seen that we can be inside the top eight in terms of lap times. We’ve worked a lot with the hard tyres and then in the final minutes I was able to make a good time with the soft tyre. Tomorrow we’ll start from where we leave off today but we’re working in the right direction in order to improve performance. I really like the track, it’s just a pity that it’s so very hot, I’m struggling a bit with that but all in all I’m feeling positive.”
Jordi Torres – P9: “The circuit is really nice and I found it quite easy to learn. There are a few hard braking sections, one of the things I need to improve with this bike in terms of riding style. The same thing happened in Australia and it is an important point that I need to work on because braking late means closing the line better and coming out faster. Precisely for this reason we focused on the front so it can give me more feeling and let me “feel” the bike. We need to stay focused because the competition is fierce. I can’t afford to lose contact with the front runners.”
The reigning and former FIM Superstock 1000cc Cup winner Leandro Mercado (Barni Racing Ducati) and Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia) were locked together in 11th and 14th respectively after two encouraging sessions. The pair were split by Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda WSBK Team) and Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) with former 125cc GP World Champion Nico Terol (Althea Racing Ducati) in 15th place.
Michael van der Mark – P12, 1m36.218s – “There was no real problem today and it’s strange because I felt good with the bike on this new track, but the lap time is not there, which is a bit frustrating. I’m sure the guys will find something on the data tonight so I’m not too worried. I’m losing a lot of time in the second sector so we’ll check everything later to find out what it was. I rode the laps, feeling good on the bike in the heat, but each time I crossed the line I was like ‘Where’s the lap time?’ I think a good night’s sleep will help me relax for tomorrow. It’s an interesting track because the first part is long and fast and the second is a combination of smaller corners, but we’ll work hard tonight to try and go a little faster around it tomorrow.”
Nico Terol: “We’ve completed day one in Thailand but I thought I would immediately get to grips with the track. Instead I’ve had a little trouble. We started well this morning with some good initial laps but we didn’t finish the morning as I’d have hoped. In the afternoon I was getting on better with the bike and was able to improve a little with the used tyre. Tomorrow we have more references to work with, so I hope to be able to improve further and prepare as well as possible for the races.”
Randy De Puniet finished the day 13th quickest – “I’m not that happy with the first day here as I struggled quite a bit. This morning we had an issue with the brake feeling so it was difficult to stop the bike, we fixed this but I had another issue with the setting this afternoon so it was difficult for me to be consistent with my laps, which is why the position is not as good. If we fix these two problems it will be much, much better but for now it is difficult for me to learn the new track and understand the GSX-R. Tomorrow I hope to fix the issues and concentrate on my riding style and improve the overall performance ready for the races.”
After suffering a technical problem with both machines in FP1, Niccolo Canepa and Larry Pegram (Team Hero EBR) were able to take part in the afternoon timed period, completing the opening day in 18th and 23rd.
The final Free Practice session that will decide the Tissot-Superpole qualifiers is scheduled to take place at 9.45am local time.
World Superbike 2015 – Round Two – Thailand WSBK – Superbike Friday Combined Times
Lowes – Suzuki 1m34.665
Rea – Kawasaki 1m34.751
Davies – Ducati 1m35.288
Haslam – Aprilia 1m35.288
Sykes – Kawasaki 1m35.457
Guintoli – Honda 1m35.570
Bayliss – Ducati 1m35.690
Baiocco – Ducati 1m35.913
Torres – Aprilia 1m35.943
Salom – Kawasaki 1m36.055
Mercado – Ducati 1m36.105
Vd Mark – Honda 1m36.218
De Puniet – Suzuki 1m36.263
Barrier – BMW 1m36.308
Terol – Ducati 1m36.391
Camier – MV Agusta 1m36.940
Ramos – Kawasaki 1m37.632
Canepa – EBR 1m37.692
Ponsson – Kawasaki 1m37.824
Barragan – Kawasaki 1m37.964
Nakcharoensri – Honda 1m38.174
Gildenhuys – Kawasaki 1m38.767
Pegram – EBR 1m38.772
Toth – BMW 1m39.256
Sikora – BMW 1m40.719
Chumjai – BMW 1m40.810
Kyle Smith tops timesheets in first day of Thai WSS action
After an extended first free practice session in which American PJ Jacobsen (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres) was fastest, this afternoon’s 45 minute FP2 saw Kyle Smith (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) emerge on top of the combined classification courtesy of a 1.38.490s lap time.
Kyle Smith – P1, 1m38.490s – “It’s been a really good day and I’m very happy to be fastest after the first day of practice at a new track. It’s been really hot again today but I’m handling it OK and after the first practice this morning we made a couple of small changes to the bike for the afternoon session. It made a big improvement and the lap times seemed to come, so I hope we can keep it up for the rest of the weekend. It’s a track where the harder you push the harder it becomes to get the lap time and there were a couple of times I came round and, although I was really pushing, I was going faster. There are one or two technical sections and it’ll be interesting to see how qualifying goes because sometimes the lap doesn’t come from pushing. I really like turn 10 on the back section of the track and had so me fun geting a bit sideways there at the end of the session when the tyre was finished, but it’s all good!”
With ambient temperatures touching almost 40 degrees Celsius the times this afternoon were not as fast as many had expected, but nevertheless, almost all of the riders improved on their personal best times with Smith the best of them all. The British rider overhauled the FP1 best that was set by Jacobsen to head the combined times, and will go into tomorrow’s third free practice session with an advantage of 0.102s over the American, who remained in second place thanks to the lap-time set earlier in the day. New father Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) moved into 3rd position overall in the final 5 minutes despite a number of off track excursions.
Current Championship leader Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) endured a similar fate as in the opening round, the Frenchman suffering a technical problem on his second lap of today’s first session. Ever jovial, he joked that it had not affected the race weekend too much in Phillip Island, before posting the 4th fastest time this afternoon to move ahead of Thai rider Ratthapark Wilairot (CORE Motorsport Thailand) and Gino Rea (CIA Landlords Insurance Honda) who were 5th and 6th.
Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres), Lorenzo Zanetti (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), Martin Cardenas (CIA Landlords Insurance Honda) and Marco Faccani (San Carlo Puccetti Racing) completed the top ten.
Ratthapong Wilairot (A.P Honda Racing Thailand) missed the morning session but regrouped to finish a respectable 13th overall ahead of team mate and former Moto2 regular Thitipong Warokorn who was 17th on his WSS debut.
Chalermpol Polomai (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) and Fabio Menghi (VFT Racing) were the only two fallers in FP1 and FP2 respectively. Both were unhurt.
World Supersport 2015 – Round Two – Thailand – Superbike Friday Combined Times
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