Buriram, Thailand - Three-times world champion Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies took a win apiece in Round 2 of the World Superbike series at the Chang International Circuit, while Davies’ Ducati Team-mate Marco Melandri, a double winner in Round 1 at Phillip Island, battled in midfield and Rea’s factory Kawasaki team-mate was plagued by brake problems.
Rea didn´t have things all his own way, with Sykes, who was narrowly pipped for pole position in Superpole 1, twice overhauling him to hit the front. But when Rea finally repaid the compliment he was able to pull away and manage his advantage to the finish.
Sykes, meanwhile, had picked up brake problems.
“Fighting with Jonathan on lap two I was already adjusting the brake a lot,” he said later. “And then after five laps I ran out of adjustment. So it was a long old race; I was so disappointed.
Sykes slipped from first to third as Rea took command, with Honda factory rider Leon Camier coming through and running second for some time, and Sykes eventually only able to manage sixth.
Camier, meanwhile, was one of the stars of the show, as he delivered a master class in defensive riding and for some time looked set to end a barren run with a first podium finish since 2013. In the end he lost out to Davies, who made a perfect block pass for his second podium of the seasion.
After a disappointing Superpole, Melandri rose to fifth by the end of the opening lap but steadily dropped back to eighth.
Ducati privateer Flores passed Sykes into Turn 3 for third and picked off Camier on lap twelve to secure his best result in 69 starts. MV Agusta’s Jordi Torres, however, faded quickly after a strong qualifying, ran wide and off the circuit while running seventh and was later passed on the second last lap for ninth by Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty.
The same lap saw factory Yamaha rider Alex Lowes take fifth from Sykes, completing an excellent second half of the race in which he recovered from eighth. Lowes had earlier enjoyed another side-by-side combat with his team-mate Michael Van Der Mark, before the Dutch rider slipped back to seventh.
In an unpredictable second race Davies surged through the field to take a 28th career victory and become the third different winner in the opening two rounds after a stunning ride with an average gain of a position per lap over a seven-lap period, hitting the front by the end of lap eight and controlling the race from there.
Taking advantage of the reverse grid format, it was the works Yamaha duo of Van der Mark and Lowes who made the early break, but as they squabbled between themselves the remainder of the pack stayed in touch. Lowes passed team-mate Van der Mark on lap two, but the Dutch rider man came back through and led for the next five laps.
Eventually Davies overhauled both but the Yamaha pair nonetheless did enough to secure second and third, in the first double podium for Yamaha since 2016. Lowes, in particular, was satisfied with an extra surge of pace in the seven closing laps that helped him to claim an eighth career podium.
Neither of Kawasaki´s top performers could make it on to the podium at all; Sykes failed to take advantage of his front row grid slot, dropping back to ninth by the end of the opening lap and eventually retiring, while Rea finished just three seconds from the podium places after an action-packed ride.
After an excellent first lap that saw him surge through from ninth to fourth with a series of aggressive inside overtaking moves, Rea had put himself among the favourites for victory and threatened to make it back-to-back wins, but struggled in handlebar-to-handlebar combat, making a series of errors that ruled him out of contention for the win.
His first duel was with Melandri, a shadow of the rider who looked in command in Philip Island, and the pair swapped positions on no less than five occasions before Rea eventually came out on top.
By the time Rea passed Melandri on lap nine and then shook the Italian off, Forés had overhauled them both, to move clear in fourth - but Rea in clear air was a different proposition to the rider who had struggled under side-by-side pressure earlier on, and he hunted down the leading privateer and relegated him to fifth on lap 18.
Rea´s fight back to fourth could prove crucial in the standings; Melandri, series leader coming into Race 2, had another disastrous race in which he was relegated to seventh and never looked comfortable on the bike, while Fores, who had looked set to close on both Rea and Melandri in the standings and leave the three separated by just five points, conceded fourth three laps from the finish.
With the three riders who beat him at Buriram well behind on points, Rea became the championship leader and the man with the momentum, while three of the top 10 in the points after Phillip Island failed to finish.
Tom Sykes retired with mechanical problems after seven completed laps and dropped 26 points back from the leader down to seventh overall. Retirement for Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) and Jordi Torres (MV Agusta) was more spectacular, the pair coming together on lap five while battling for eighth; each will now in Europe out of the top 10.
Kawasaki privateer Toprak Razgatlioglu took advantage of their misfortune, finishing eighth ahead of Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia), who did well to nurse his injured shoulder into the top 10, and Honda privateer PJ Jacobsen.
Yamaha privateer Jules Cluzel - who won this race in 2016 - took the holeshot and eventually broke clear after pole-sitter Lucas Mahias, who fluffed the start on his works R6 tried unsuccessfully to snatch back the lead coming out of Turn 1.
But Cluzel started to make mistakes under pressure as the race went on, running wide on lap eight and allowing Mahias to dive through into the lead. Two laps later Cluzel powered past down the back straight and regained the lead into Turn 3, only to lowside in Turn 5 on lap thirteen, sliding into the gravel and out of the race.
That set up a four-way fight to the finish between Yamaha privateer Randy Krummenacher, Mahias, Federico Caricasulo on the second factory Yamaha and Yamaha privateer Sandro Cortese.
Krummenacher fought his way from fourth to first in a matter of three laps, in the process setting a new lap record, while Mahias struggled for top-end pace and wasn’t able to make a successful pass on Krummenacher, although he did stay with him thanks to his superior mid-corner speed.
In a brave last-corner effort, Mahias took a dive down the inside in a bid for victory but Krummenacher remained composed and made a perfect cutback, blocking out Mahias in a drag race down to the line as the pair banged elbows and fairings over the final metres.
Behind them, Cortese was the rider with the pace in the second half of the race, having had to work hard to break clear of the chasing pack and join the lead quartet. But Caricasulo held off all his attempts to get past, running as high as second position after passing team-mate Mahias on the opening lap – only for Mahias to surprise him down the inside into Turn 8 on lap three.