Jonathan Rea held off team-mate Tom Sykes to clinch Kawasaki’s 80th World Superbike victory in Saturday’s Race 1 at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit.
As the lights went out pole-sitter Michael van der Mark, starting his first WSBK race from the coveted grid slot, got bogged down allowing the Kawasakis an easy ride into first and second with Jonathan Rea ahead of Tom Sykes before a minor moment from Rea allowed Sykes to swoop into the lead. Van der Mark dropped to sixth.
The Dutchman, though, had lost none of the pace that secured him P1 and he quickly began to work his way back up the order, up to fourth behind the Kawasakis and Chaz Davies midway through lap 2. Davide Giugliano and Nicky Hayden hung onto the Honda rider’s rear wheel as the leading six riders began to drop the chasing back.
Five laps in it appeared a three-rider battle for the victory as the two Kawasakis – with van der Mark up to third – scampered off into the distance. However an error from van der Mark meant he ran wide off the track thus losing ground to the leading pair.
As often seen in recent months it became a tussle between Sykes and Rea for the victory with the Yorkshire rider given the ‘hurry up’ by his pit wall as Rea dogged him lap after lap.
With five to go Rea, on board his number ‘1’ bike, pulled ahead of his team-mate by slipping up the inside at Turn 12 to lead the race. Sykes tried to fight back but the reigning Champ held firm before putting a few tenths between them.
Traffic on the final lap meant Sykes closed right up on Rea’s rear wheel, however, it was the World Champ who clinched the victory – his third of this season – by 0.222s.
Behind them van der Mark rode a lonely race to third place. It was his third podium in as many races and yet still a disappointing outcome for the Honda rider who had such big hopes after his maiden pole position.
There was another great inter-team battle further down the field as Davies and Giugliano fought over fourth place. Davies initially held the position but was aggressively attacked by his team-mate with eight to go only to fight back laps later. Their battle ended when Giugliano lost the front end of his Ducati. He remounted and finished down in 18th position.
Michael Reiterberger secured a career-best of P5 ahead of Alex Lowes, who recovered from an early off-track moment, Sylvain Guintoli and Jordi Torres. Alex de Angelis and Lorenzo Savadori completed the top ten.
Meanwhile a technical problem with his CBR1000RR meant Nicky Hayden recorded his first retirement of the WSBK season.
— WorldSBK (@WorldSBK) March 12, 2016
1 Jonathan Rea Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 20 laps
2 Tom Sykes Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R +0.222
3 Michael van der Mark Honda Racing CBR1000RR 9.623
4 Chaz Davies Aruba.it Racing Ducati 1199R 17.167
5 Markus Reiterberger Althea BMW S1000RR 18.894
6 Alex Lowes PATA Crescent Yamaha R1 20.754
7 Sylvain Guintoli PATA Crescent Yamaha R1 24.221
8 Jordi Torres Althea BMW S1000RR 31.064
9 Alex de Angelis IodaRacing Aprilia RSV4 34.348
10 Lorenzo Savadori IodaRacing Aprilia RSV4 34.479
11 Leon Camier GBR Agusta RC F4 RR 37.013
12 Roman Ramos GO Eleven Kawasaki ZX-10R 41.113
13 Matteo Baiocco VFT Ducati 1199R 44.369
14 Xavi Fores Barni Ducati 1199R 45.053
15 Josh Brookes Milwaukee BMW S1000RR 51.939
16 Sylvain Barrier Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R 54.341
17 Saeed al Sulaiti Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R 66.541
18 Davide Giugliano Aruba.it Racing Ducati 1199R 69.530
19 Dominic Schmitter Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R 100.904
20 Peter Sebestyen Team Toth Yamaha R1 1 lap
21 Sahustchai Kaewjaturaporn Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R 1 lap
22 Imre Toth Team Toth Yamaha R1 1 lap
23 Anucha Nakcharoensri Yamaha Thailand R1 3 laps
24 Karel Abraham Milwaukee BMW S1000RR 1 lap
25 Nicky Hayden Honda Racing CBR1000RR 11 laps