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.