Chang International Circuit, Thailand – Not even a red flag and a restart of Sunday’s Race 2 at Buriram could stop Kawasaki star Jonathan Rea’s dominance in Round 2 of the World Superbike series at Buriram as he pulled off his second double win of the year to remain unbeaten in 2017.
South African Sheridan Morais, meanwhile, put in a superb ride on the Kallio R6 in the World Supersport race. He qualified 14th, lost three places in the first-corner traffic jam and then fought his way back to finish eighth on the road and seventh on paper after Gino Rea, younger brother of the World Superbike champion, was disqualified for ignoring a ride-through penalty.
Rea pulled a brilliant start from pole – he’d set a new qualifying lap record earlier in the day - to take the holeshot, with Ducati Team rider Marco Melandri, Rea’s works Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes and Melandri’s partner Chaz Davies in hot pursuit.
None of them could match Rea’s pace, however, as he pulled away at about half a second a lap to win by 6.279 seconds after 20 laps of fierce racing in stifling 36 degree heat and high humidity.
Davies won the battle for second, finishing less than two seconds in front of the pursuing Sykes. Melandri was just off the podium, less than a tenth of a second behind Sykes after a dramatic last-lap shoot-out, while a good performance from Michael van der Mark on the leading works Yamaha saw him round out the top five.
Another solid race from his Yamaha team-mate Alex Lowes saw his good form continue in sixth place, with Jordi Torres (BMW) Leon Camier (MV Agusta), Nicky Hayden (Honda) and his rookie team-mate Stefan Bradl completing the top 10.
Ducati privateer Xavi Fores, who looked set for a top 10 finish, dropped back in the closing stages after a superb battle for eighth with Torres, and finished 11th.
After another brilliant start, Rea scythed through the field from ninth on the reshuffled grid to slot into second behind Melandri’s Ducati by the end of lap one, with Davies, Lowes and Sykes in hot pursuit.
The drama continued as Davies lost the front end of the Ducati in Turn 3 on lap three, picked up the bike and rejoined, stone last.
On lap four the world champion moved into the lead, only for Lorenzo Savadori’s Aprilia to bring out the red flags a lap later as it suffered a terminal mechanical infarction in Turn 12 and went down big time, scattering pieces of itself all over the track.
The restart grid was taken on the riders positions at the end of lap four, which put Rea on pole; once again, however, Melandri on the leading Ducati had no answer for the world champion, as he powered away over the 16 laps of the restart to win by four seconds.
Sykes made it a Kawasaki one-two with a last lap move on Melandri, while Lowes rounded off a successful Thai weekend by coming home fourth, only six seconds behind the leader, and ahead of Jordi Torres on the leading BMW.
Davies, having started 19th after his fall in the curtailed earlier race, fought his way through the pack to finish a hard-earned sixth, while Hayden, Fores, Kawasaki privateer Roman Ramos and Markus Reiterberger on the second works BMW completed the top 10.
Works Yamaha rider Federico Caricasulo took a hard-fought win in from Thai wild card Decha Kraisart and Finnish hotshot Niki Tuuli for an all-Yamaha podium.
Late drama, however, saw Honda privateer Kyle Smith, who was battling with Caricasulo for the lead in the closing stages, disqualified on the last lap for ignoring a ride-through penalty – this after an earlier penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct in which he had to drop back three places.
Caricasulo took over the lead with seven laps to go, when Jules Cluzel, who’d led from pole, suddenly slowed and than retired as his Honda cried enough.
Local hero Thitipong Warokorn, standing in for injured world champion Kenan Sofuoglu (who’s expected to be back for round three in Spain) on the works Kawasaki, made the most of home ground advantage for a superb fourth, with Kawasaki privateer Kyle Ryde fifth after a hectic race.
Completing the top 10 were Hikari Okubo (Honda), Morais, Aiden Wagner (Honda), Kazuki Watanabe (Kawasaki) and Robin Mulhauser (Honda).