WorldSBK: Thailand, Friday roundup
A fastest lap of 1’34.770 saw Honda WorldSBK Team’s Michael Van Der Mark go quickest on the first day of the MOTUL Thai Round at Chang International Circuit in Buriram. Second fastest was Pata Yamaha’s Sylvain Guintoli, followed by Althea BMW rider Jordi Torres completing the top three.
This morning’s session saw Leon Camier go quickest on his MV Agusta as a flurry of lap times came in at the end of FP1, and the British rider posted a 1’36.047 effort to go just under three tenths of a second quicker than Nicky Hayden (Honda WorldSBK Team) and World Championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), followed by the second respective Honda and Kawasaki riders, Michael van der Mark and Tom Sykes.
FP2 saw times tumble at the top of the table and a rush of activity towards the end of the session. With Sykes topping the timesheets around a quarter of the way in with a lap down into the 1’35 bracket, the Kawasaki Racing Team riders initially set a 1-2 in the session ahead of Chaz Davies’ Ducati in P3.
Van Der Mark then became the first to post a lap under 1’35 and the time proved good enough to stay at the top of the timesheets until the end of the session, with Yamaha’s Guintoli the only rider to come within two tenths of the Honda rider’s lap, 0.182 seconds off. Spaniard Jordi Torres set a late charge for P3, the Althea BMW rider recovering from his elbow injury in testing to rejoin the fight at the front, just ahead of Yamaha’s Alex Lowes.
The top ten from Friday gain automatic entry to Tissot-Superpole 2 on Saturday, with the qualifying sessions then deciding the final grid positions for both races. Lights go out at 4pm local time (9am GMT) on Saturday for the first WorldSBK race of the weekend as Jonathan Rea looks to try and tackle the challenge of becoming the first rider since 2003 to win the opening four races of the season.
Wildcard Thai rider Ratthapong Wilairot locked out the top of the timesheets on Friday in Buriram to outpace reigning Champion Kenan Sofuoglu and rival Jules Cluzel.
In FP1, Championship leader Randy Krummenacher was the only rider to pass through the 1’40 barrier, while local fans were delighted to see wildcard rider Ratthapong Wilairot (A.P. Honda Racing Thailand) inside the top three and ahead of PJ Jacobsen (Honda World Supersport Team).
Krummenacher’s teammate and reigning World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu started quietly in 13th position, before the Turkish rider took the top spot back for much of the afternoon as he improved to a 1’39.565. Thai wildcard entry Ratthapong Wilairot, who scored a top 5 last year in Buriram and whose brother Ratthapark won the WorldSSP race on home soil last year, then improved his lap time in the dying minutes to go fastest overall with a 1’39.435.
MV Agusta’s Jules Cluzel improved on a challenging FP1 to go third fastest on combined times, with the Frenchman hoping for a good points haul in Thailand after a difficult race in Australia. He begins the Motul Thai Round in the same position as Sofuoglu, with both rival riders yet to score despite both having shown great pace.
The top ten from Friday’s times go through to the Tissot-Superpole 2 session to fight for the top grid spots on Saturday ahead of the WorldSSP race on Sunday, with lights out for the second race of the year at 14:20 local time (7:20am GMT).