The second round of the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship will take place this coming weekend, with KRT riders setting out to add to their personal win tallies at the Chang International Circuit.
After an unpredictable start to the season a month ago at Phillip Island in Australia both Sykes and Rea scored a podium finish apiece. They currently sit second and third in the overall championship standings, just two points apart.
Securing second place in race one at Phillip Island has helped to put Sykes into second place in the early season standings, with 33 points in all. His previous KRT record at Chang is an enviable one, with a race win in 2016 and four other podium finishes. The 2013 season champion is particularly keen to get back to winning ways after leading for 18 laps of race one in Australia, but just missing out on a win in the final few minutes. Sykes joined WorldSBK legend Troy Corser as best all-time Superpole qualifier at the Phillip Island round, with 43 Superpole awards.
Currently one place behind his official Kawasaki team-mate in the points table, three-time champion Rea came even closer to a race win in Australia last time out. He finished a mere 0.021 seconds behind double winner Marco Melandri in race two, having held the lead exiting the final corner. With five victories and a second place at Chang since 2015, no other rider has a record of success like Rea at Buriram.
After the grand undulations and wide radius corners at Phillip Island, Buriram is nearly a polar opposite in its design. Built in a modernist ‘stadium’ style, with a vast grandstand overlooking pitlane, Chang features many corners in a relatively small area. With a long main straight and several other high-speed sections leading into hard braking areas, the circuit provides an intense workout for both riders and machines, especially in the hot and humid conditions that accompany any Thai race weekend.
Tom Sykes: “We were really happy with round one in Australia and our performance over the weekend was nice. I was very impressed with the bike as we had a fantastic set up. I led for most of race one but we did not quite have the tyre to fight right at the end. Now I am very much looking forward to Chang. It is a very different track to Phillip Island and that is what gives us confidence. Thailand’s layout has a much more European feel compared to Phillip Island. The new rules for 2018 make for quite a big difference in the engine but we have moved the power to have more torque and more bottom end out of the turns. I won’t be any more keen to win Superpole in Thailand than I would be normally, but it would be good to get one more and put my name at the top of the all-time list.”
Jonathan Rea: “Thailand is a very different circuit to Phillip Island but is a more conventional type of circuit. The circuit itself is a compromise of long straights where you need good top end power, and slower, flowing, sections that require a good chassis balance when it comes to setting up the bike. I’m very excited about the race because it is a track I enjoy and had some successes at in the past. Although I didn’t start the season in the best way, with an injury and sickness, these last weeks I’ve been working hard to arrive at 100% in Buriram. I now have very strong motivation to have a competitive weekend and we will be aiming for the top step.”
Follow all KRT Kawasaki Racing Team’s progress around the Destination of Speed from 23rd to 25th March, all with the WorldSBK VideoPass.