Hey folks, welcome to the fortnight edition of the 30 in 30, and on today’s piece, we’re gonna talk about Round 2 of the World Superbike Championship, this time heading back to the Chang International Circuit in Thailand, and while it was a familiar story at the front, there were some more interesting headlines to take away from the Far East.
22 Bikes race twice, and in the end, Jonathan Rea wins
I know, you’re friggin shocked. But Jonathan Rea made it look really easy out there. He was pretty much the only man consistently lapping in the 1:33’s all race long, and his metronomic race simulations in practice paid dividends.
In Race 1, he took a Grand Slam victory with ease. Marco Melandri had to ride at 101% to try and keep up, but made mistakes in the process and eventually slipped to finish in 4th, with Tom Sykes out-braking the plucky Italian into the final corner in both Races 1 and 2. Those Kawasaki’s had such an incredible slingshot coming over the hill for the final corner, it was insane. Poor Marco had never been so mad to finish 3rd in his life, beaten by the same move twice. Derrrrrp.
Race 2 was a fair bit more interesting. The reverse grid rules meant Jonathan had to start from 9th… not that it mattered as he had his best ever Kawasaki start to be 4th by the end of Lap 1. Chaz Davies slid out at the Turn 3 hairpin and would have probably only scored minor points if it weren’t for a Red Flag in the early running. Brutal luck for Lorenzo Savadori as an oil leak spilled on his Aprilia’s rear tyre, causing a nasty high side. Luckily Lorenzo’s mostly okay, despite the neck brace.
The red flag meant the race restarted on Lap 3, Chaz getting a standing restart from 15th, and it worked out well for him, eventually finishing 6th. A decent recovery job all things considered, although I was surprised he didn’t have an answer for Jordi “Spanish Elvis” Torres in front of him, and really struggled with MV Agusta’s Leon Camier for a good while too.
In the context of the Championship, everything’s coming up Jonathan Rea. Four wins out of four, a 30 point Championship lead, and no obvious #2 threat with Sykes, Davies, Lowes and Melandri all tripping over each other, Aragon can’t come sooner, given it’s a track where Chaz Davies has dominated in previous years.
Fun Facts: Jonathan Rea has an 89% podium rate since joining Kawasaki in 2014, and AVERAGES 20 points a race. That’s ridiculous.
The Tier List
As I said after Philip Island, it seems that a power structure is starting to form now in 2017. Here’s how I roughly have it:
Kawasaki is in that top-tier with Ducati close behind. Chaz Davies dominated Aragon last year so we’ll see in three weeks time as to whether that still holds up, but Ducati seems more like the bike that will dominate some rounds but be mediocre on many others.
Yamaha is definitely the most improved and the solid third place team. Nice to see Michael Van Der Mark be up there with Alex Lowes in Race 1, beating him head-to-head. Sadly, an engine problem after the Race 2 red flag meant he couldn’t take the restart. But given Yamaha were 10 seconds closer to the win compared to last year, it’s clear the team’s taken steps in the right direction.
Then it gets a little fuzzy. Leon Camier does the Lord’s Work on the MV, but there’s no baseline comparison to anything else out there given it’s all we’ve ever known of Leon in Worlds. Aprilia show they have potential, but their reliability so far has been woeful. I mean, how good a look as it if you’re running a 2017 bike with a four-year-old chassis? Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori having a crash each to start don’t help matters.
BMW have a really underrated team in Reiterberger and Torres, but the lack of BMW factory support seems like a bad omen in the long run. But they always have this knack of punching above their weight which is admirable. As said, Torres’s 5th in Race 2 was another great result.
Xavi Fores on the customer Ducati is somewhere in the middle, and Honda’s almost in full “development” year mode. Their struggles are well documented… But then Hayden finished 9th and 7th, definitely above the form book.
Yeah, outside of the Top 4 is anyone’s guess, and it’s going to be fun to see how the field shakes out after a few more rounds because 5th-12th right now is a crapshoot.
World Supersport is INSANE
Okay, World Supersport is definitely a much more interesting series to keep an eye on right now, and their Thailand race was unofficially a BATSHIT CRAZY/10. I’ll TRY to make some sense of this… *deep breath*
Jules Cluzel takes the early lead. Within the first three laps, three title contenders – PJ Jacobsen, Lucas Mahias (2nd in the Championship), and Zulfahmi Khairuddin all retired due to engine problems.
Cluzel had a stable but close fight on his hands with Federico Caricasulo with Thai wildcard rider Decha Kraisart in close contention. THEN CLUZEL’S ENGINE BLOWS. To be fair, it’s 37 degrees out there in Thailand, but Cluzel’s now got nothing to show for in a Championship where arch nemesis Kenan Sofuoglu has lost ZERO ground in. Crap.
Behind the leading battle of two, Kyle Smith is basically going apeshit at this point. He’d already been given a three-place grid drop for a dangerous divebomb attempt that ended in Christian Gamerino crashing to avoiding a two-bike collision on the final bend. Smith didn’t see the board telling him to drop three places, and he kept pushing.
His penalty was increased to a ride-through penalty after ignoring the original punishment, but he still was gaining ground in the fight for the lead. By the final lap, he’d passed Kraisart, ruining his chance at the win, to finish in “2nd”, but the stewards had DQ’ed him for “unsporting behaviour”. So after all of that, Federico Caricasulo gets his first ever Super Sport race win, with wildcard Kraisart in 2nd, and a million miles back, Niki Tuuli finished in 3rd, with lead British hope Kyle Ryde in 5th.
….And breathe. Seriously, this race was mayhem. Nutbar Factor 6. Cluzel and Jacobsen through no fault of their own, have had blown golden chances laid to waste due to their bikes and outside factors, Mahias couldn’t take advantage, and amazingly, 36-year-old Robbie Rolfo STILL leads the Championship despite finishing Thailand in 11th. Kenan Sofuoglu is laughing his head off knowing he’s probably due back in Aragon and the top contenders barely have double digit points COMBINED. An absolutely ridiculous race you have to see, and I’m still not sure what in the blue hell Kyle Smith was doing.
Dre’s Race Ratings
World Superbikes (6/10 – Decent, 7/10 – Good) – Race 1 was pretty mediocre, Race 2 somewhat more intriguing with the reverse grid, Chaz Davies’ making and breaking his own race, and the midfield scraps. Neither race touches Australia, and that’s a shame because last year’s races were really good and competitive. Not so much here.
World Supersport (8/10 – Great) – Definitely worth a watch for sheer ridiculousness. You’ll want to pour one out for half the field by the time it’s over, and Kyle Smith will probably give you a heart attack. Catch you guys tomorrow!