Press release previews from the WSBK and WSS teams, as well as the organizers, ahead of this weekend's Thai round of World Superbikes:
WorldSBK: Chance for Change at Chang International Circuit?
Next is the MOTUL Thai Round, with Buriram the scene of Rea’s first double win last year
A few hours north-east of the capital city of Bangkok, Chang International Circuit in Buriram is the most recently constructed venue on the World Superbike calendar. Last year, the inaugural WorldSBK meeting at the circuit saw eventual champion Jonathan Rea claim the first double win of his title winning campaign.
The season opener saw the reigning number 1 come out on top in two incredible last lap battles, including a dramatic last corner victory in Race 1. As WorldSBK heads to Asia for the first time this year, the question will undoubtedly be asked as to how to beat Rea in Buriram. Last year he was untouchable on the new circuit from the outset and the 2015 Champion will be looking to roll his momentum through to Thailand as those who wish to depose him start to plan their assault.
Honda rider Michael Van Der Mark is the first challenger as it stands after the first Round at Phillip Island, with the Dutch rider just 14 points behind Rea in the Championship after one round. Having led at Phillip Island in Race 2, he offered a great display of his intentions in 2016. His teammate on the CBR1000RR SP, 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden, will be counting on making another step forward in at Buriram this weekend: the Kentucky Kid had a solid start to his WorldSBK career and having endured a difficult opening race, he impressively fought for the podium in Race 2.
The Ducati duo of Davies and Giugliano are two more top contenders, although the Italian rider has not yet ridden at Chang International Circuit due to missing the Round through injury last year. Davies, after an incident on the final lap of Race 2 in Australia, will want to start chipping into Northern Irishman Rea’s early lead as soon as possible and is looking to set the record straight. Although the British Ducati rider crashed in Thailand in 2015, he had nevertheless shown good pace in Buriram and counts on a further-improved Panigale R with which to take on the defending Champion’s ominous Thai form.
Two of Rea's predecessors also look strong: 2014 WorldSBK Champion Sylvain Guintoli will be looking to build on a positive first race weekend of the season on the new Yamaha YZF R1 after topping Friday at Phillip Island, and Tom Sykes, 2013 WorldSBK Champion and Jonathan Rea’s Kawasaki teammate, now leaves Australia to make a fresh start to the season on the more standard layout of Chang International Circuit. Fastest in much of testing, Sykes’ Round 1 was neither his full hand nor the ace up his sleeve.
After immediately finding the pace to get themselves into the top ten in Phillip Island, both Althea BMW and Milwaukee BMW will be working hard on making another step forward to catch the bikes just ahead of them, with both teams recording impressive results in the first race weekend of 2016. Leon Camier on his MV Agusta leaves Phillip Island filled with positivity after finding the gap to the frontrunners much reduced, and the British rider will be looking to keep his place in the top ten in Thailand. The IodaRacing Aprilia pairing of De Angelis and Savadori will also be keen to build on their first weekend of the season, with the duo both making great progress since the first pre-season test they took part in at Phillip Island. Will the stage be set to see the seven manufacturers share the top ten once again?
Local focus will also be on the two Thai riders racing this weekend in Buriram, with Sahustchai Kaewjaturaporn riding for Grillini as a replacement for injured Australian Josh Hook, and Yamaha Thailand Racing Team fielding Anucha Nakcharoensri on a YZF R1.
After Free Practice on Friday decides entry to Tissot-Superpole 2 the following day, the lights will go out for Race 1 at 4pm local time (9am GMT) on Saturday before Race 2 gets underway 24 hours later. Keep track of all the action on WorldSBK.com and on the free Live Experience App, and follow @WorldSBK on Twitter for every update over the race weekend.
Pata Yamaha Prepares to Travel to Thailand
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team heads east again this week for the second round of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at Buriram's Chang International Circuit in Thailand. Fresh from his season opening top-five race finish, Sylvain Guintoli is eager to replicate his Phillip Island form and develop the progress made so-far with his YZF-R1. Looking to bounce back from a challenging weekend in Australia, Alex Lowes is feeling confident about his return to the Thai track. The scene of a podium celebration for the 25-year-old at last year's inaugural visit, Lowes is excited about going to the 4,554m circuit and is determined to build on the potential shown during his opening weekend.
A purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility situated 400kms to the northeast of Thailand's capital Bangkok, the Herman Tilke designed Chang International Circuit opened in late 2014. Reaching the highest FIM criteria, the track's layout combines long straights with 7 right and 5 left-hand corners with its nine-turn technical complex being viewed easily from the main 50,000 seater grandstand. Buriram ('the pleasant city') is a largely agricultural region with a population of approximately 30,000. The province also retains numerous ancient sanctuaries and ruins as an important reminder of its long and varied history.
Track action commences for Guintoli and Lowes at 10:15hrs local time in the first of the weekend's two hour-long free practice sessions on Friday 11th March before the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team's wheels turn in anger for race one at 16:00hrs local time on Saturday 12th March.
"My first visit to the Buriram circuit in 2015 was a very good surprise as I loved the track! It has a good variety of corners, stop and go at the start and more flowing to finish, and with the consistent temperatures in Thailand it's a very hot race so it's very challenging for the riders. Last year the public came in big numbers, even though it was our very first event there, so there was a great atmosphere and it was one of the noisiest rounds of the year! This year I'm hoping to continue the good work already produced over the winter, and shown at Phillip Island, with the YZF-R1. Chang is a very different layout to PI but we'll work hard to match the bike to the track and see what we can do for the races."
"Chang has good memories for me from last year's race. It's a relatively new circuit on the calendar this year, being only the second time WorldSBK are visiting Thailand, and I can't wait to get started. I don't really have much to say from Phillip Island so I'm looking to make a proper start to my 2016 campaign at round two. I feel chilled and relaxed this week and really looking forward to it. It will be a tough weekend with the heat and a brand new circuit for the YZF-R1 therefore we already have a lot of work to do from Friday's first free practice but it's going to be great. The people are all very welcoming and the support is great in Thailand so I'm sure everyone is as excited as me to get going!"
Round Two Approaches For KRT WorldSBK Duo
KRT’s FIM Superbike World Championship challengers Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes had their first race experiences on the all-new Ninja ZX-10R at round one last month, with Rea winning both races and Sykes securing the Superpole trophy in qualifying. In a few days time the second round of the 2016 championship gets underway with anticipation of another strong showing for Rea and Sykes, at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand.
With Rea on a maximum 50 points after round one in Australia he approaches the Thai round with a high level of confidence. He won both inaugural WorldSBK races for KRT at the 4.554km circuit in Thailand in 2015 and then went on to win the title by a near record points haul at season end. In 2015 ‘JR’ scored the fastest lap in each race at Chang, in addition to winning Superpole.
The combined efforts of Rea and Sykes helped make Kawasaki champions in the manufacturers’ title chase and Sykes will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s Chang experiences in one regard. He took his first podium finish of the season in race one in Thailand in 2015 and he aims to earn his first 2016 podium finishes this coming weekend. On the new Ninja he ran out front in each Australian race last month but dropped out of the final top three positions to finish fifth and then sixth.
Rea made a new step up in his career statistics at Phillip Island. His first race win took him to a total of 30 and his Sunday success raised that figure to 31 – equal with double WSBK champion Colin Edwards. They now share fifth overall in terms of total race victories. Sykes is eighth overall in this ranking, with 26 race wins. Tom is additionally the second most successful qualifier in the history of the category with 31 Superpoles.
The new-look 2016 race weekends in WorldSBK consist of two free practice sessions on Friday, Superpole qualifying and race one on Saturday and the second race – alongside the FIM Supersport World Championship contest - on Sunday.
With a stadium style design philosophy and a giant grandstand for the enthusiastic local fans to occupy, the Chang International Circuit is an exemplar of modern circuit design. It features three long straights allied to more technical sections, making it a difficult venue to find a truly ideal machine set-up for.
After the Thai race weekend is completed the championship heads to Europe and the home base of the logistical base of the KRT team, in Spain. The Motorland Aragon round will be the third of the year and will feature races on the 2nd and 3rd of April.
Tom Sykes stated: “Chang International Circuit, on paper, is a circuit that could really suit us so I am excited to go there again. I got a podium finish although it was not that good to us in one of the races last year, but it is a different prospect this year. I remember in 2015 that we had great spectators in the circuit and it was a layout that I enjoyed riding around. This year we have an even better ZX-10R so I am hopeful heading to Thailand.”
Jonathan Rea stated: “Going to Thailand off the back of an incredible start to the season, with a double win in Australia, just gives me a lot of satisfaction – and motivation as well. Motivation to keep the bike at the front.
“Friday is the most important day to understand set-up because on Saturday we are already racing. With the new schedule we have a little bit of a different strategy for our race weekends. We were quite lucky in Phillip Island with our pre-event tests so in Thailand we need to make sure we can plan the weekend carefully. Hopefully, come Saturday and Sunday, we can have two good results again.”
After what is always a tough first weekend in the championship Pedercini Racing Kawasaki pairing Saeed Al Sulaiti and Frenchman Sylvain Barrier will be back out in force in Thailand, alongside potent Kawasaki runner, Go Eleven’s Roman Ramos. Dominic Schmitter will take to the field on his Grillini Kawasaki machine, while Aussie rider Josh Hook (Grillini Racing Team) was injured in testing for his home event.
It’s Thai time for the Honda WorldSBK Team
Round 2 – Thailand
Chang International Circuit, Thailand
The Honda WorldSBK Team is ready to tackle the second round of the 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship, taking place this weekend at the Chang International Circuit near Buri Ram in Thailand. After a solid start to the new season, Michael van der Mark and Nicky Hayden are looking forward to doing their very best again aboard their Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP machines.
Twice on the podium at Phillip Island, van der Mark is now aiming to keep the momentum going and to maintain his second position in the standings. Last year, the 23-year-old from Rotterdam finished the second Thai race in seventh place, after being forced into early retirement in the first encounter due to a small technical problem.
The Chang Interational Circuit is one of the five tracks on the WorldSBK calendar Nicky Hayden has yet to ride on. The 34-year-old American is eager to get back to action following an encouraging debut in Australia, which was partially hampered by grip issues. Unlike the opening event of the season, which was preceded by a two-day official test, in Thailand Nicky will have multiple challenges to face. He will need to quickly learn his way around the track on Friday while trying to find a good set-up for his Fireblade and make sure he stays in the top 10, in order to qualify directly for Superpole 2.
Four hours and twenty minutes by car from Thailand’s capital city Bangkok, Chang International circuit opened on October 2014. Last year’s edition of the Thai WorldSBK round marked the first World Championship event to take place at this venue. The track consists of five left turns and seven right-handers, all visible by the spectators watching the race from the imposing 50-thousand-seat main grandstand, built over the pit garages.
Michael van der Mark 60
I can’t wait to be on track again. Phillip Island was an incredible start to the season, but we know this round will be completely different for us, as there won’t be any test before the race weekend. Last year things didn’t go too well for us but with the data we have now and the improvements made during the winter to our CBR1000RR, things will surely be better for us.
Nicky Hayden 69
I’m looking forward to the race weekend. I have been to Thailand a couple of times before due to sponsor obligations and I always had a great reception; it is clear that people here are really passionate about the sport and hungry to know more about it. I’ve had a look at the track with some videos and it looks quite nice, I will have a proper look at it on my Fireblade on Friday morning. This is going to be a good learning weekend for me as I will get a better idea of our potential, given the lack of testing before the round.
After the good results we’ve had in Thailand we hope to be at the sharp end of the pack again. The Chang International Circuit is a completely different track than Phillip Island, with long straights and a lot of twisty, second gear corners. In the past this type of layout did not suit our bike very well, but we’re confident that with the improvements made to the Fireblade we will be able better our performance compared to last year. Both riders are on great form and very motivated to do well, so this will be an important test for us.
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team ready for a new challenge in Thailand
After claiming two podiums in the season opener in Phillip Island (Australia), the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team will take it to the track once again this week in Buriram (Thailand) for the second round of the World Superbike championship.
In the opening round, both Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies constantly fought at the top, taking third and fourth place provisionally in the general standings with 29 and 26 points respectively to their tally. On a track characterized by a significantly different layout, the team’s goal is twofold: to confirm the competitiveness of the 2016-spec Panigale R, and to continue its development in cooperation between the track and the racing department.
Davide Giugliano (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #34)
“Australia’s results were invigorating. The Panigale R has undoubtedly become more competitive and, thanks to the great job done by the whole team and the increased experience with the package, we managed to start off on the right foot after my long, forced hiatus from races. I've never raced in Thailand, where we’ll have an extra variable to consider with the heat but, to this end, Phillip Island offered a valuable test. Physically, I still don’t feel 100 percent but I’m getting closer to an optimal fitness level and I’ll be ready.”
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #7)
“In Phillip Island, we've been close to winning both races. Of course crashing out of Race Two wasn’t ideal, but those things happen when you’re going for the top prize and I’ve put it behind me already. I've stayed in Asia to train and get myself acquainted with the heat and humidity, so I feel ready. Last year, in Thailand, we struggled with the long straights. The Panigale R has improved a lot since then, but we need to keep pushing the development forward to find a little extra in terms of top speed.”
WorldSSP: Reset and Refocus
World Supersport returns to the stage of a 2015 race full of surprises
World Supersport rookie Randy Krummenacher rode his new Kawasaki brilliantly in difficult conditions at Phillip Island, with the Swiss rider inheriteinga well-deserved lead to cross the line more than two and a half seconds clear of the pack and taking his first win in WorldSSP on the first attempt. The Swiss rider and Championship leader has never ridden at Chang before and will be hoping to get up to speed quickly to retain his advantage over his WorldSSP veteran teammate.
4-time and defending WorldSSP Champion Kenan Sofuoglu suffered a tyre problem when out in front in Australia, leaving the Turkish rider with no points to show for a weekend of searing pace. After setting pole in the first ever Tissot-Superpole sessions for WorldSSP, the Puccetti rider was out in the lead when rain started to fall and a tyre problem saw him lowside out of the race. With the pace there for the reigning Champion, will Chang see him return to his throne? Sofuoglu set pole last year in Buriram and came home second in the race, his first podium of the year on the way to the title.
Sofuoglu’s key rival in the last few years, Jules Cluzel on the MV Agusta, had a difficult weekend at Phillip Island, crashing out of the race in Australia after making an incredible start and leading from 8th on the grid. Also leading much of the WorldSSP race before a technical problem last year in Thailand bodes well for him to begin his title challenge proper, hoping to catch the Puccetti pair for the first time this season: Sofuoglu on pace and Krummenacher on points.
WorldSSP action kicks off on Sunday at 14:20 local time (7:20am GMT), after Friday practices define entry into Tissot-Superpole 2 on Saturday afternoon. Stay on top of everything on WorldSBK.com and on the free Live Experience App, and make sure to follow @WorldSBK for all the updates from Round 2.
One Shared Aim For Sofuoglu And Krummenacher At Round Two
Randy Krummenacher (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and his four-time championship winning team-mate Kenan Sofuoglu arrive in Thailand for the second round of the FIM Supersport World Championship with the same goal in mind, after very different experiences at the season opener in Australia. Randy won his first ever WSS race by a clear margin but race leader Kenan suffered a blameless crash and no-score after experiencing a tyre issue.
The tangible reward Sofuoglu left Australia with was the honour of being the first winner of the Superbike-style two-part Superpole contest in WSS. He is heading to Thailand for the second of 13 rounds in the 2016 season determined to get his championship challenge back on track in all possible ways, as he goes for what would be career win number 33.
For Krummenacher his round one victory, in his first ever race in the global Supersport series, was an instant positive confirmation of his decision to join the championship winning Kawasaki Puccetti Racing Team. The experienced Moto2 rider is out to defend his early championship lead at the Chang International Circuit, near the town of Buriram, this coming weekend.
The 4.554km venue will be a new venue for the otherwise well-travelled Krummenacher, but last year Sofuoglu was second after the end of the inaugural WSS race meeting in Thailand.
Randy Krummenacher stated: “After Australia I feel great and full of power. I am really confident and I want to stay strong for this round. The track in Thailand is new for me but I have studied the layout and it looks nice. It will suit me I am sure and I have never had a problem learning new tracks. It is nice to race on a different track and I like the new adventure. After my win in Australia I was a bit more busy than normal and now more people recognize that I am riding in a different championship from before. The more races I do like Australia the better things will be.”
Kenan Sofuoglu stated: “We lost out on the chance of 25 points in Australia because it was clear we could win the race. I know we will be very strong in Thailand because last year we had a pole position and then second in the race. We have a nice combination and we should be very strong there. It is a good track for us but it will not be easy because it will be very hot. I hope I can continue my season with good points in Thailand because at the moment we will have it come from behind.”
GO Eleven Kawasaki WSS riders Christian Gamarino and Ondrej Jezek will once again compete on track, alongside Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and his team-mate Nacho Calero. Young Kawasaki rider Lachlan Epis from the Response RE Team will take part in his second WSS race of the season this coming weekend.
High hopes for Jacobsen and the Honda WorldSSP Team in Thailand
Round 2 – Thailand
The second round of the FIM Supersport World Championship is set to get underway this weekend at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand, where PJ Jacobsen and the Honda WorldSSP Team hope to make one step closer to the front after a top-5 finish in Phillip Island’s season opener. In last year’s encounter, the 22-year-old American missed second place at the finish line for just 0.032s, eventually rounding the podium as third.
Jacobsen is now eager to try his Honda machine for the first time on the twisty 4.554 km (2.830 mi) Thai circuit, located near the city of Buri Ram (literally the ‘city of happiness’), in order to claim what would be his tenth podium in the series. In 2015, it was in fact a Honda to win the race with local rider Ratthapark Wilairot, that same CBR600RR that five rounds later ended up in PJ’s hands.
Patrick Jacobsen 99
I’m really looking forward to be racing in Thailand, after the top 5 result in Australia. We can do a lot better than fifth, that’s for sure, so I’m eager to prove a point and to get where we deserve to be. I’m ready to step up and I like the track a lot. Last year the race went really well there and I’m sure I can do even better with the package I have now. The goal is to start the weekend off on the right foot, then see where we are at and what we can do.
We’re heading to Thailand now. Fifth place in Australia was an OK result, but we know that our goal is being on the podium at every race. Due to some late grip issues we were unable to do so in there, but we expect not to encounter this type of problems at the Chang International Circuit, which is a very different track compared to Phillip Island. PJ is an incredibly talented rider and I’m confident we will be able to fight for a top 3 finish.
CIA Landlord Insurance Honda confident of improvement at Chang.
Wed, 09 Mar 2016
With results not being what the team expected at the start of the World Supersport Championship in Phillip Island, CIA Landlord Insurance Honda are looking forward to the next round at Chang in Thailand this weekend.
The team will conclude its investigation into Kyle Smith’s machine failure before Free Practice 1 and take every measure to ensure there is no re-occurrence. Kyle will do full practice starts at the end of FP1 and FP2 so that the clutch wear can be monitored taking into consideration the new regulations and Kyle’s style. Kyle said: "The race last year at Chang was disappointing for me but if I learn from that I should be battling for the podium here this year."
Hikari Okubo was showing great promise before his second lap crash in Australia. He comes to Chang, a circuit he already knows, fit and confident that he can show much more of what he is capable of.
Although Luke Stapleford improved throughout the event in Australia, he was disappointed with his result of 16th after not being able to get on the pace in the race. Luke said: “I have higher hopes heading into this weekend. I think the Chang circuit will be kinder to us and my plan is to get my head down, get the bike set up well and find a good race pace.”
Stefan Hill achieved his objective of a top twenty finish at Phillip Island and he knows the importance of remaining focussed in this his first full season of the World Supersport Championship. Stefan said: “My realistic aim at this round is to finish in the top twenty again and to reduce the gap between me and the leaders.”
Simon Buckmaster, CIA Landlord Insurance Honda Team Manager said: “After such strong pre-season preparation we were naturally disappointed at Phillip Island for Kyle to strike problems on lap 1, Hikari to crash out on lap 2 and Luke not to show his true pace in the race. As a team we will re-group at Chang and put it behind us. I have every confidence in our riders and crew and I expect the team will show its true potential in Thailand."
WorldSBK in Asia: Interesting facts and figures ahead of the Motul Thai Round
Some interesting stats and facts about WorldSBK in Asia before Round 2 in Buriram
WorldSBK has a long history of racing in Asia, with more than a tenth of the races in the history of the Championship having taken place in the continent: 70 out of the 696 run to date. Asia also hosted a WorldSBK race weekend in the first season of the Championship in 1988, that beginning cementing its place in the tradition of World Superbike before the continent went on to set the stage for a Round of WorldSBK every subsequent year until 2003. With no Asian race in 2004 or 2010-2012, 2015 took back the honour by hosting a record 6 WorldSBK races between the rounds held in Buriram, Sepang and Losail. That record will be matched once again in 2016.
Although Sugo in Japan holds the record for the amount of WorldSBK races hosted by a single Asian circuit, with the lights having gone out on the grid there a total of 32 times, Buriram is the track with as yet the least experience of WorldSBK having hosted only one round to date. The nearest challenger to Sugo’s record is Losail International Circuit on 14, followed by Sentul in Indonesia, where a quarter the number have been staged (8).
Ducati are the most successful manufacturer in Asia, with 24 victories for the Italian marque compared to 11 for Kawasaki and 10 for Honda. In recent history, the Aprilia RSV4 has proven the bike to beat more often than not in Asia, with 8 wins out of the 12 races staged since 2013 going to the Noale factory.
What of riders in Asia? The most successful hail from the 1990s, with Carl Fogarty taking top honours by virtue of 7 victories in Asia, followed by Doug Polen on 6 wins and Raymond Roche on 4. Jonathan Rea is starting to catch the legends of the 90’s however, as he currently stands on 3 with two wins at Buriram last year, and one in Sepang. Asian riders have taken victory 14 times on home soil, all of whom were Japanese, with 13 of those victories gained in the Land of the Rising Sun, the odd one out proving Losail in Qatar and the victory of Yukio Kagayama in Race 2 in 2005.
Last year Jonathan Rea dominated the inaugural Buriram weekend with pole position, a double win and both fastest laps. He left very little to the opposition as in both races he also led every lap. In Buriram this year, the defending Champion will be aiming to equal Troy Corser: the Australian stands only two wins ahead of him with a career total of 33 victories.
Watch Rea try and go for glory once again on WorldSBK.com and on the Live Experience App as the lights go out for the first time in Asia in 2016 at Chang International Circuit.