Press releases from the organizers and teams after the first day at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand:
Rea takes first Asian honours in Buriram
Tight at the top in Friday’s Free Practise
MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship riders took to the 34 degree Thai heat for free practise two, as they battled it out for the final spots in Superpole 2, which will take place before Saturday’s opening race at the Chang International Circuit.
Setting the fastest time in the morning FP1, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) continued his impressive pace around the swooping 4.554m circuit. Ending day one on top, his time of 1.33.573 out him 0.210 ahead of the field and is already looking like the man to beat. Whilst Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) was able to put in a late fast lap to take second position with a time of 1.33.783.
Following a late spurt in FP1 as they begin to understand the circuit aboard their Panigale R machines, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) took the third spot overall on Friday, 0.279 off Rea’s time, despite the Italian being unable to improve on his time from this morning. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing –Ducati) finished just behind his team-mate in the humid Asian conditions.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) continued to build on his pace at a track he has stood on the podium at before, ending the day in the top five with safe place in Superpole. Team-mate Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) also will take part in the second Superpole session, ending in eighth – lapping at 1.34.291.
Spaniard Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) continues to impress following a strong opening round and after finishing in the top four in FP1, he heads into day two at Chang International Circuit in sixth position, 0.601s off the fastest time.
Markus Reiterberger (Althea BMW Racing Team) narrowly secured a position in the fight for pole position tomorrow, with a top nine finish on Friday. Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) is still working through his new issues with his Italian machine; and despite a moment at turn three he ended in the top ten and will go straight into Superpole Two.
Just missing out on a spot in the all important second Superpole session, meaning they will fight for the top two spaces in Superpole 1 was Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia), with a time of 1.34.554. He sits just above Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) and Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) who continue to work through frustrations aboard the new for 2017 Fireblade.
In a similar turn of events to the opening day at Round One in Phillip Island two weeks ago, Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) was unable to head out in FP1 with a mechanical problem. However the afternoon session saw the Brit continue with his frustrations, putting in 16 laps and finishing in 14th position.
Saturday will see riders take on the Asian challenge on Saturday from 13:30LT for Superpole One, before the racing action begins at 16:00LT (+8 GMT) in Buriram.
Rea And Sykes Excel On Opening Day
After two one-hour long practice sessions at the Chang International Circuit Kawasaki Racing Team riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes occupied the first and second places in the qualifying times with their Ninja ZX-10RR machines.
On the opening day of the second FIM Superbike World Championship round of the season the official Ninja ZX-10RR riders proved to be a step ahead of their rivals, with both Rea and Sykes under lap record pace with their respective best laps.
Rea’s 1’33.573 put him 0.210 seconds ahead of Sykes, with both riders improving their morning lap times this afternoon despite a significant increase in track temperature at the 4.554km long Thai circuit.
Today the Buriram asphalt was fully ten degrees warmer in the afternoon than the morning. With these hotter conditions the most likely ones to be experienced in the two 20-lap races on Saturday and Sunday, both Tom and Jonathan worked on finding a race set-up, before going for a faster qualifying lap.
Overall track conditions are much improved compared to last year, when two sections of recently resurfaced asphalt had to be avoided by the riders. With the freedom to use the whole track surface, and good grip from the track even despite some recent heavy rain, lap times were fast and consistent from the beginning today.
On Saturday 11th March FP3, Superpole 1 and 2 and then the first race of the weekend will take place, with Rea and Sykes already comfortably inside the guaranteed Superpole 2 places. Rea (with three) and Sykes (with a single) are the only riders to have won races at Chang since it was first added to the championship calendar in 2015.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “We focused on a race simulation at the start of the afternoon session and then at the end I just waited to set a time until the last laps. We did not want to put too many laps on my preferred tyre choices. We do not have a massive allocation of my favourite front tyres so I was testing the one-step softer front tyre, in readiness for Superpole. It wasn’t so bad but with more grip the bike worked quite differently on track. At the end of the race simulation, the bike was working really well. But when we added more grip was a bit different. So I will have to change some things in my riding style, to be honest, when I go on a time attack tomorrow in Superpole. All on all, we are pretty OK.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “I am fairly happy because we started off steadily in the morning. In the last moment of FP2, because of the changes we made during the sessions, we got to where we needed to be before the first race on Saturday. That gives me satisfaction about today’s work. Overall the lap time was not too bad but obviously we need to look to improve the set-up slightly. As Fridays go, I am quite happy with what we did. The track is quite grippy in general, offering consistency too. A couple of other guys have really strong pace but hopefully we will be part of the leading train like last year.”
Positive start for the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team in Buriram: Marco Melandri is 3rd, Chaz Davies 4th on Friday
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team resumed action today in Buriram (Thailand) for the second round of the 2017 WorldSBK Championship. The first two free-practice sessions yielded positive results for both Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies, who set the third and fourthbest time respectively on Friday.
Despite the fact that the Buriram track has been historically difficult, Melandri and Davies immediately found a good feeling with their Panigale Rs. To this end, the Italian and the Welshman were second and third at the end of FP1.
In the afternoon, with higher temperatures, both riders worked extensively on used tyres, focusing on race pace. Melandri basically posted identical times compared with FP1, closing in third position in the combined rankings, +0.279 slower than the provisional best time of 1:33.573 (Rea). Davies, on the other hand, was able to improve by another tenth of a second in the final minutes, posting the third-best time of FP2 and fourth overall, only 43 thousandths of a second behind his teammate. Both riders thus gained direct access to Superpole 2.
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team will be back on track tomorrow at 10:45 local (CET +6) for FP3 ahead of Superpole and Race 1, which is scheduled to start at 16:00 local time.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #33) – 1:33.852 (3rd)
“I’m happy because the team has done a great job and my Panigale R immediately gave me good feedback. This track is more technical than what it looks like: it features hard-braking areas, fast corners, a bit of everything…It’s fun to ride, but I still need to improve under braking and in terms of my lines, especially in the third sector. Still, today went better than what we expected. It will be hard to race in such hot conditions. It would be great to secure front row once again and get a good start. I think the Kawasakis still have an advantage, but we’re ready to make things difficult for them.”
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #7)
“Today we’ve been working on our program to get the bike in the ballpark, building our confidence progressively, and it looks like we’re all quite evenly matched in the four top positions. It’s the first time here that the track actually allows us to attack from the very first laps. We’ve made good steps forward in between sessions, but there’s still a couple of areas in which to improve, especially the third sector. We need to find one or two tenths there, but our pace is quite competitive nonetheless. I did my best lap on used tyres this afternoon, so overall it’s been a good first day.”
Pata Yamaha Riders Make Strong Early Progress In Thailand
Despite rising afternoon temperatures and characteristic high humidity in Thailand both Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark made real progress with their official YZF-R1 machines around the 4.554km Chang International Circuit. Lowes posted fifth best time of all, even after concentrating most of his efforts on finding a race set-up rather than pushing for a fast lap time early in the sessions. His fellow R1 riding team-mate van der Mark was as high as fourth in the timesheets at one stage, completing his own long run and being finally ranked eighth overall.
With their top eight performances today both Alex and Michael have comfortably taken starting spots in Superpole 2, which will finally determine their starting position for race one on Saturday afternoon.
Alex and Michael have taken podium finishes in WorldSBK races at Buriram in the recent past and will be out to replicate those kinds of showing in the first 20-lap race of the weekend, which gets underway at 16.00 on Saturday 11th March.
Before they have the chance to score more championship points tomorrow the riders have to take part in a 25-minute FP3 session, then Superpole 2 and finally the opening race of the weekend - the third of the 2017 season. The Sunday race, again over 20-laps, also takes place at 16.00.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team
"We did another good job today. I made a race run at the start of the afternoon session and although I am not 100% comfortable on the bike yet we got a lot more information for tomorrow. I would like to have a bit more feel on the front end, that is an area I want to work on, but considering this I am quite happy and feel OK. Everything else feels fine on the bike. I am looking forward to tomorrow and with more confidence on the front, especially when releasing the brake, we should be in a decent position. The track conditions were better than last year and it is hot, which is always nice. I quite enjoy the challenge of those conditions! The bike looks really strong already so I am looking forward to a good race on Saturday."
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team
"It was a really good day and I felt fine on the bike. This morning was not too bad and this afternoon I did a long run. It was OK but I missed a bit of lap time in the beginning. I was too slow at that stage but after a 17-lap run I was consistent, and quite fast. After that, we changed the gearing and then I did my fastest lap. Then we changed a few more things on the bike and I did a similar lap time to my best - so I am happy. I have a feeling that tomorrow my race pace will be even better. I think everybody would have expected the track conditions to be worse this afternoon in the heat but almost everybody improved their lap times. It was fast. When it was really warm this afternoon it was better for us to understand things, because the races will take place well into the day on Saturday and Sunday."
Superpole 2 start for Milwaukee Aprilia after Chang Free Practice
Chang International Circuit 10 / 03 / 2017
Milwaukee Aprilia made a solid start to Round 2 at the Chang International Circuit, reaching Superpole 2 for the second consecutive race
Coming off the back of a double points finish in Race 2 at Phillip Island two weeks ago, the team arrived in Thailand looking to make further ground with their new generation Aprilia RSV4 RF.
The team worked through a busy programme to get the bikes working in the sweltering heat, with both Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori showing marked improvements in pace between the FP1 and FP2 sessions on Friday.
Eugene's time of 1'34.518 earnt him 10th place overall, which means he progresses straight to the Superpole 2 pole position shootout for the first time in 2017.
Lorenzo's lap of 1'34.554 was just shy of the cutoff for Superpole 2, and he must take part in the Superpole 1 session on Saturday. He will be targeting the top two spots in order to progress for the pole position shootout.
The action continues at Chang on Saturday with Free Practice 3 at 10:45 (03:45 GMT) ahead of the Superpole sessions at 13:30 (06:30 GMT).
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Eugene Laverty #50
FP1 1'35.037 FP2 - 1'34.518
Today was a good step forward for us. We finished in the top 10 which is the most important thing and I'm much happier with the bike.
We had a problem with stopping when I put a new front tyre in, and I only got one lap in because of that. But, we managed to get through so our pace is definitely getting quicker.
We're into Superpole 2 so we're going in the right direction, and the bike is feeling much better around here than Phillip Island. It's a new track that I've had to learn, but after today I'm optimistic we can move forward tomorrow.
Lorenzo Savadori #32
FP1 - 1'34.991 FP2 - 1'34.554
It wasn't a straight forward day for us. We need to improve the feeling on the bike because I had some small problems today, and for sure we have some more pace to find.
We have another practice session tomorrow and must do the Superpole 1 session which is unfortunate, but we will work hard tonight to make improvements for tomorrow.
We know what the main issue has been today, so it is important for us to solve it quickly and I think we can do better on Saturday.
Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team with some work to do after day one in Thailand
Chang International Circuit, Thailand
The first day of WorldSBK action at the Chang International Circuit has drawn to a close, with the Red Bull Honda World Superbike duo of Stefan Bradl and Nicky Hayden 12th and 13th respectiely in the combined times of today’s two free practice sessions at the Thai circuit. Both riders will therefore have to try and make their way through Superpole 1 in order to battle for a spot in the first four rows of the grid for race one.
Both riders spent the entirety of their track-time evaluating the new solutions and settings developed for their Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 machines by the team and its technical partners after the opening round. With 45 and 40 laps completed during the day, Bradl and Hayden have given the team a significant amount of information to work with ahead of tomorrow.
Superpole 1 at the Chang International Circuit begins at 13:30 local time (GMT +7), with race one scheduled to get underway at 16:00.
Stefan Bradl 6
12th / 1'34.691
We were expecting a bit more of an improvement this morning but in the afternoon we did make a step in the right direction on many areas that were affecting our performance in Australia, such as engine brake but also traction, spinning and wheelie control. Still, we are trying to put everything together so we need to keep working in this same direction but we indeed found some improvement. We are still chasing and we don’t have the right tools to be up there with the fastest riders, but we are moving upwards.
- Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
Nicky Hayden 69
13th / 1'34.949
Today we had some inconsistency with the bike on corner entry: because of that it was hard for me to try and find the limit as well as pushing for a competitive time. This prevented me from finding the right feeling with the bike. However, we know where the problem is, so it’s a matter of keep working hard and come back stronger tomorrow.
- Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
We made quite a number of changes from Phillip Island to here: with Stefan they worked out quite well and we were able to make some steps forwards. We’re still 12th and 13th after today, but these positions do not reflect our potential. He is steadily building a bit of confidence with the bike and with some more tweaks this will carry over into tomorrow. The Fireblade is giving him a consistent response and there’s a clearer direction to follow with the setup. Nicky had more of a difficult day and different issues to address, but we are investigating and analysing the data in order to come up with a plan for tomorrow.
Althea BMW pair qualify directly for Superpole2 at Buriram
Buriram (Thailand), Friday 10 March 2017
Round 2 of the 2017 Superbike World Championship got underway today at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand. The Althea BMW Racing Team took to the track with riders Jordi Torres and Markus Reiterberger, participating in the timed practice sessions that establish entry to tomorrow’s two Superpoles.
In the day’s first session, which took place in inevitably hot conditions (air temp 31°C, track 35°C), both Althea BMW men made good progress on board their BMW S 1000 RR machines. The pair set their best times towards the session’s end, a 1’34.710 for Torres and a 1’34.864 for Reiterberger, times that positioned them eighth and ninth respectively on the timesheets.
Despite a rise in temperature for the afternoon session (air 35°C, track 45°C), Jordi and Markus were able to improve on the morning’s times by almost half a second apiece, closing Friday seventh (1’34.245) and ninth (1’34.410) respectively. Thanks to these encouraging results, both Torres and Reiti have gained direct access to tomorrow’s Superpole2.
“We’re completed this first tough day! It’s extremely hot and it’s not easy to be on the bike when it’s like this but having said that we’ve worked well. This morning we understood which tyre to use and didn’t have any particular problems. In the afternoon, we made some small changes to the electronics and it went a little better but the frustrating thing is that we have some vibration. For tomorrow I want to be more relaxed and ride more smoothly, because at this track I only complicate things if I ride aggressively.”
“A positive day here. We made a good start in FP1 and I immediately felt better here than I did at Phillip Island. In the second session, we made a change to the rear shock and this improved my feeling with the rear, especially in braking, so I thank my team for that. We still need to make some improvements at the front but our pace is not bad right now. I hope to improve further tomorrow, if we can find another couple of tenths then I’m sure we can run two strong races on Saturday and Sunday…”
WorldSSP: Smith Fridays's fastest in Thai Heat
GEMAR Team Lorini rider quickest in both Friday practice sessions
Friday’s WorldSSP action at the Motul Thai Round in the heat of the Chang International Circuit saw Kyle Smith (GEMAR Team Lorini) complete the day as the top man thanks to a 1’38.259 time.
Having also led FP1 Smith showed his pace again in an afternoon session which took place with 34°C ambient and 43°C track temperatures. Local wildcard Decha Kraisart (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) also dealt well with the conditions as he impressively lapped second quickest, just 0.15s down on Smith.
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team), Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) and PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) were all in the top five. In addition to Kraisart his fellow Thai wildcard Chalermpol Polamai (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) also ran well in sixth.
The end of the first day of action at round two of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship in Thailand also saw Hikari Okubo (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda), Christian Gamarino (BARDAHL EVAN BROS. Honda Racing), Kyle Ryde (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Gino Rea (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) in the WorldSSP top ten, putting them all straight into Tissot Superpole 2.
Alex Baldolini (Race Department ATK#25) broke a chain late in the FP2 session and required a ride back to the pits from a steward, ending up 18th on the timesheet.
FP1 earlier in the day had seen Smith set a best time of 1’38.567 to lead the way from Cluzel by 0.231s, with Kraisart also in the top three. The FP1 top five also featured Mahias and Jacobsen, who will both be aiming for podium results this weekend. The morning session saw run-offs without major consequences for Ryde, Okubo and Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), whilst Polamai crashed at turn 1 but was unharmed.
Defending WorldSSP World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) is still absent having sustained a hand injury during pre-season and is aiming to return to action at Round 3 in Aragon.
The WorldSSP riders return to the track at 11.20am local time in Thailand on Saturday for FP3.
Superpole 2 for Cluzel and Okubo in Thailand
CIA Landlord Insurance Honda riders Jules Cluzel and Hikari Okubo shrugged off injury in the World Supersport Free Practices today, ending the first day at the Chang International Circuit 4th and 7th respectively and securing automatic entry to Tissot Superpole 2 tomorrow.
Jules was a little disappointed not to be faster in the second session of the day, but he is confident he has found the best balance for the Honda CBR600RR for qualifying tomorrow.
Jules said: “I was expecting to go quicker this afternoon but we changed the gearing a lot which lost us some time and also changed my feeling. I also didn’t get a good feeling with the tyre but I think with a new tyre I will be able to be faster. We will do it tomorrow.”
Hikari improved on his time from the morning session and is in a strong position for qualifying. He said: “I am so happy to go to SP2. Position 7 is ok but I want better. I know my good and bad sectors so we will be looking at the data and machine settings so tomorrow I can push harder.”
Robin Mulhauser also improved on the time he set in the morning session, but with the times so tight, his 17th position means he will challenge for the top two places in Superpole 1 to achieve the best grid position in the race.
CIA Landlord Insurance Team Manager, Simon Buckmaster said: “It’s been a really good day, Jules and Hikari have done a great job after the disappointment and the injuries they sustained in Australia. Jules’s pace has been strong. He is always a little disappointed when he’s not fastest, but the things we tried were measured and considered to find the best balance for the bike. We are confident that we have a really good balance and setting for tomorrow to challenge for pole position and for the podium in the race.
Hikari has been fantastic. We weren’t sure when we arrived if he would be able to ride but he is pushing really hard and building his pace. He’s a little weak in the last sector, maybe his collarbone is a factor in this, otherwise looking at his other sectors he might have been challenging for pole. He is looking good for qualifying well tomorrow.
Robin improved 1.8s between the two sessions and he has a really good chance to challenge for a good points finish in the race with his target to be as close to the top ten as possible. This would really kick start his season and we can build from there.”