Jonathan Rea claimed a dominant victory at the Chang International Circuit, the reigning world champion setting a searing pace en route to his third victory in a row. When he arrived in Parc Ferme after Race 1 the Northern Irishman's emotions were clear for all to see as he celebrated his 41st WorldSBK victory.
“I felt really good and quite calm, my guys gave me a really good bike again and that was my plan,” said Rea. “We had a really good pace but Chaz also had a very fast pace, as did Marco, so I had to ride away into T1 to make the holeshot, I wanted to get my head down in T1 and I did it. I managed to get a good gap and then built up a rhythm, I was just doing my job and it was enough to win, so I’m really happy. Last year there was a big fight between me, Tom and Chaz but the bike’s improved a lot since last year, so I’m really happy with that.
“Starting from ninth tomorrow is the biggest factor to be honest, I knew today was my chance to win because starting from ninth tomorrow will be much harder. Coming from the third row here is going to be tough, as it is a track that’s hard to pass at. The pace in the .33s surprised me throughout the race, but today’s been the hardest so far. Tire consumption is good and I was happy with the pace so tomorrow is going to be tough. The idea is get to the front group as fast as I can, but tomorrow is going to be difficult.”
With a margin of five seconds at the flag it was a comfortable race win for Rea but in stifling hot conditions, track temperature peaked at over 50°C, the race itself was far from comfortable race for the victor. Starting from the third row tomorrow will mean that Rea will have to sweat it out once more but afterwards he said “The target is to win and to do that I need to make a good start and get through the field. It'll be difficult to win because Marco is very strong and starts from pole position but I'm looking forward to it!”
Having finished second for the third time this season Chaz Davies is 15 points behind Rea in the championship but the Welshman can feel satisfied to once again finish with a solid podium finish.
“I never aim for 20 points, I always want to win, but this is a good result for us,” said the Welshman. “I took an opportunity to get on the podium and it finally worked, and we are now able to get a lot of information for Race 2. I had a small problem for a good part of the race with the braking system, but I think that will be fixed now. I’ll hopefully be strong on the brakes but overall it’s quite acceptable and I feel like we can bring the fight tomorrow.
A last gasp move at the final corner saw Tom Sykes claim the final step on the rostrum but starting from seventh in Race 2 he will know that he faces a difficult task. The Kawasaki rider was held back by a braking issue in Race 1 where the front brake faded in the second half of the race and under heavy braking the lever went straight to the bar. As a result, it was a solid performance from the 2013 world champion.
“I took an opportunity to get on the podium and it finally worked, and we are now able to get a lot of information. I had a small problem for a good part of the race with the braking system, but I think that will be fixed now. I’ll hopefully be strong on the brakes but overall it’s quite acceptable and I feel like we can bring the fight tomorrow.”
That fight will see Melandri start on pole position ahead of the Yamahas of Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes. The pole sitter had a similar problem to Sykes and said that he was a sitting duck in the closing stages of the race. He will however be confident of a podium in Race 2. Whether the Yamaha riders can compete will be a bigger question mark.
Lowes struggled with the front end in the second half of the race but with a step forward for Race 2 could see the Englishman in the thick of things. For both Yamaha riders it was a major positive to finish in the “best of the rest” positions but to bridge the gap ahead of tomorrow's race will be a challenge.
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