Ten quick facts about the Thai WSBK round
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) has never finished lower than second here, winning five times out of six.
2. Rea’s team-mate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) has won the only race his team-mate hasn’t won here: Race 2 in 2016.
3. Jonathan Rea has led every single lap around Chang International Circuit both last year and in 2015.
4. In Buriram, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) will try to score his third consecutive win in Race 1. He has secured a string of three wins in his WorldSBK career before, in 2012: Race 2 in Aragon and a double in Brno.
5. This is the only track of the 2018 calendar where Tom Sykes has raced but hasn’t recorded pole.
6. There are only three tracks on the current calendar in which Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) never qualified for the front row: Buriram, Misano and Jerez.
7. This is the only track where Jonathan Rea has finished all the races he has started on the podium.
8. The WorldSBK Championship has run 80 races in Asia so far.
9. The most successful rider in Asia is Jonathan Rea, with 8 wins (5 in Buriram, 2 in Losail and 1 in Sepang). Rea overtook Carl Fogarty last year, who has won seven times in Asia (2 in Johor, 2 in Sugo and 3 in Sentul).
10. Ducati have won at six of the eight Asian tracks in the history of the Championship: Johor, Losail, Sentul, Sepang, Shah Alam and Sugo. Missing from this list are only Buriram and Istanbul.
Can Marco Melandri maintain his lead?
WorldSBK is set to arrive in Thailand’s Chang International Circuit at Buriram, with 4.5km of sweeping tarmac, which will play host to the 19 premiere class riders, for the second round of the championship.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) arrives in Thailand as the championship leader, breaking Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK’s Jonathan Rea’s string of 76 races at the top, but the fight isn’t over and reigning world champion Rea will be the man to beat around Buriram. The battle for glory in Thailand is on!
Melandri will be looking to take his third consecutive win when the lights go out on Saturday, as the Italian heads to Thailand as the only WorldSBK victor of 2018. The 35-year-old is preparing for a tough fight, and after narrowly missing out on a double podium finish last season, he will be looking to improve his pace – especially through the tricky final corner in Buriram.
“Buriram is undoubtedly a peculiar track, but I like it. Despite the fact that it doesn’t have one of the most technical layouts, it’s still a lot of fun to ride. Last year, our main rival was the heat as I struggled more than expected with 40 degrees, so I hope that the conditions are a bit more favorable this time. However, we should also consider that I had very little experience with the Panigale R back then. In the 2017 races, Sykes passed me twice in the last corner, but now I feel much more determined and ready, so I can’t wait to get back on track.”
While Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) has a mixed bag of results from Thailand – including two podium finishes – he will be searching for a more positive weekend in Asia.
“After a positive start in Australia, I feel good about going into round 2 in Thailand. Buriram is a good track to assess our level and see where we are with the 2018-spec in general, but also to pick up from where we left off at Phillip Island. The crash in Race 2 obviously wasn’t ideal, but the positive is that I felt good on the bike, both physically and in terms of overall feeling. We want to confirm how competitive we can be. The heat in Buriram makes it a bit more difficult for everyone, but we got progressively closer to the win every year, so hopefully we can close the gap altogether this time. I’m really motivated and looking forward to the weekend.”
Kawasaki Racing Team are no doubt the bench-mark around the Asian circuit, with an 100 per cent win record in Buriram. Jonathan Rea took the double victory when SBK first visited the circuit back in 2015, while Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) joined him on the podium in race one.
“We were really happy with round one in Australia and our performance over the weekend was nice. I was very impressed with the bike as we had a fantastic set up. I led for most of race one but we did not quite have the tyre to fight right at the end. Now I am very much looking forward to Chang. It is a very different track to Phillip Island and that is what gives us confidence. Thailand’s layout has a much more European feel compared to PI. The new rules for 2018 make for quite a big difference in the engine but we have moved the power to have more torque and more bottom end out of the turns. I won’t be any more keen to win Superpole in Thailand than I would be normally, but it would be good to get one more and put my name at the top of the all-time list.”
“Thailand is a very different circuit to Phillip Island but is a more conventional type of circuit. The circuit itself is a compromise of long straights where you need good top end power, and slower, flowing, sections that require a good chassis balance when it comes to setting up the bike. I’m very excited about the race because it is a track I enjoy and had some successes at in the past. Although I didn’t start the season in the best way, with an injury and sickness, these last weeks I’ve been working hard to arrive at 100% in Buriram. I now have very strong motivation to have a competitive weekend and we will be aiming for the top step.”
2016 welcomed a 100 per cent podium record for the duo following sensational British battles on track, of which Rea was the victor in Race One and Sykes in Race Two. 2017 welcomed the unstoppable Rea on his way to his third consecutive title, as he took the double in dominant style – closely followed by Sykes. Will 2018 see the end to their Thai reign? There are plenty on men on a bid to stop them.
2016’s pole position man Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) will hope to put the opening race of the season behind him, as he suffered a tough first outing in Australia. But with a strong history around Chang International Circuit, the Dutch rider sets his sights on his second podium appearance in front of the hordes of fans, his first back in 2016.
Fellow Buriram podium finisher Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) will be keen to get his YZF-R1 on the podium in Thailand, and he will be keen to remain in the top five of the championship standings after Round Two.
Impressing with their new rider line up for 2018 in Australia, Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team of Leon Camier and Jake Gagne will have another challenging weekend ahead of them. Sitting in sixth position overall in the standings, Camier will be hoping to improve his overall record around the 4.4km circuit, where he has struggled in the past.
With a new bike and team, the British rider will be putting everything he learnt from his first race with the CBR1000RR to good use this weekend. Whilst for Gagne it will be another track to learn, giving him even more of a test for the three days ahead.
Milwaukee Aprilia team-mates Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori don’t have many happy memories of Chang International Circuit, which they will be looking to rectify for the 2018 MOTUL Thai Round.
Italian Savadori has welcomed two top ten finishes here, whilst Irish hopeful Laverty has only competed here once, and took home one point from both races. With some big steps with the set-up of the RSV4 RF made in Australia, there will no doubt be two determined Aprilia riders around Buriram.
Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) has a strong record from Buriram in the past, as the Spainish rider has never finished outside of the top eight over all six appearances.
Continuing to learn the dynamics of this new team, as well as the characteristics of the F4, it will certainly be a challenge for Torres but with the added confidence of the strong history – including two top four finishes in 2015, he will be one to watch.
With their sole rider of Loris Baz making his debut in Buriram this weekend, the GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team will have a big challenge on their hands. Keen to get the weekend underway, the French rider will be keen to put in plenty of laps on his S 1000 RR throughout the start of the weekend as he prepares to get himself in the best possible position for the weekend ahead.
Whilst the battle between the Independent Rider’s roars on into Thailand, of which Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) is dominating. Taking a podium finish in Australia and sitting in fourth position in the overall championship standings, the Spanish rider is the clear outstanding independent rider so far. However, with a mixed record around the circuit he will no doubt face some strong challenges from his fellow Independent Team’s and Riders.
WorldSBK Standings following Round 1, 2018
- Marco Melandri 50 Ducati
- Tom Sykes 33 Kawasaki
- Jonathan Rea 31 Kawasaki
- Xavi Fores 29 Ducati
- Alex Lowes 21 Yamaha
- Leon Camier 19 Honda
- Chaz Davies 16 Ducati
- Michael Van Der Mark 16 Yamaha
- Loris Baz 12 Bmw
- Leandro Mercado 10 Kawasaki
- Eugene Laverty 9 Aprilia
- Toprak Razgatlioglu 9 Kawasaki
- Jordi Torres 8 Mv Agusta
- Román Ramos 7 Kawasaki
- Jake Gagne 7 Honda
- Pj Jacobsen 2 Honda
- Ondrej Jezek 1 Yamaha
Following on from the gripping opening round in Down Under there are over a handful of men who would take the victory as it’s impossible to count anyone out of the fight.
With three different winners around Buriram in the past – Ratthapark Wilairot, Jules Cluzel and Federico Caricasulo – as well as wildcards thrown into the mix, it won’t be short of pure racing action.
Heading into the second round of the season as reigning world champion and championship leader, Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) put on a stunning performance in Australia as he began his title defense with a comfortable and confident style. Moving on to Buriram he will hope to put last season’s performance behind him, as he was forced to retire from the race. However with a fourth position back in 2015, the French rider has proven strong pace here in Thailand.
Team-mate Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) has fantastic memories of Chang International Circuit as he secured his debut victory here in a sensational race, and with a competitive pace Down Under he will certainly try to replicate his victory in 2018.
Randy Krummenacher (BARDHAL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) made a strong return to the WorldSSP battle last time out in Australia, taking a podium finish after one season away. Feeling competitive on his Yamaha, it will be interesting to see if this pace can continue into Buriram, where he took a fourth position in 2016’s race. The Swiss rider is still learning with his new team but clearly this isn’t slowing him down.
Another strong Yamaha rider on the grid in Australia was Kallio Racing’s Sandro Cortese, who secured a podium finish in his debut race. Despite two slow starts, the German rider had a competitive pace in Australia and won on a drag to the line to take third position in stunning final lap sprint. Making his debut in Buriram this weekend, it will be another tough test for the 2012 Moto3 World Champion, but one that he will no doubt embrace and enable him to push his R6 to the limit.
It was a strong opening round for British rider Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing), as he put his Triumph into the top five around the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. As the WorldSSP circus heads to Thailand, the young Brit will no doubt have seen a boost in his confidence as he battled up at the front of the field. But with a mixed history in Thailand – he was 14th in 2016 – and a very different circuit layout to contend with, it will certainly be a big test this week.
Five-time WorldSSP champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) had difficult opening to his 2018 season, as a big crash raised questions over the need of a skin graft for the Turk. Finishing in 13th position in the re-started opening race, Sofuolgu has sailed through without surgery and will now come out fighting in order to make up for a tough start to his season.
Unable to start last year’s Thai WorldSSP race due to a wrist injury, the 33 year old will prepare to revisit a circuit he is yet to win around. With two podiums to his name around Buriram – two second positions – it will be an important weekend on-board his ZX-6R.
Putting in a strong performance for MV Agusta Down Under, Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) took a top six finish to start his season off, and will now make his debut in Thailand as he takes on the 4.5km Buriram circuit for the first time. Hoping to continue his pace with his new team in Asia, it will be a true test for the 2016 STK10000 Champion.
Niki Tuuli (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) was the lone rider out on track for his team in Australia with his team-mate Andrew Irwin sidelined due to injury. Making some initial steps he was able to take a top 11 finish, but will be looking for even more pace as the series rolls on into Thailand. Securing a podium here last season, it’s clear the young rider has a comfortable feeling and will hope to convert that onto his new CBR600RR.
WorldSSP Standings following Round 1, 2018
- Lucas Mahias 25 Yamaha
- Randy Krummenacher 20 Yamaha
- Sandro Cortese 16 Yamaha
- Federico Caricasulo 13 Yamaha
- Luke Stapleford 11 Triumph
- Raffaele De Rosa 10 MV Agusta
- Jules Cluzel 9 Yamaha
- Kyle Smith 8 Honda
- Ayrton Badovini 7 MV Agusta
- Thomas Gradinger 6 Yamaha
- Niki Tuuli 5 Honda
- Loris Cresson 4 Yamaha
- Kenan Sofuoglu 3 Kawasaki
- Hikari Okubo 2 Kawasaki
- Tom Toparis 1 Kawasaki