KRT challengers Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes shared the lead for all 20 laps of the first FIM Superbike World Championship race at Buriram in Thailand between them, with Rea finally running out the winner by only 0.222 seconds from his team-mate. A strong showing from the new Ninja ZX-10R saw championship leader Rea and now third ranked Sykes finish over nine seconds from the next closest rider.
With high air temperatures of 34°C evident during the contest at the 4.554km long Chang International Circuit the race was hard work for all, but it was the KRT pairing who held the advantage after all the laps had been completed.
Despite the slippery track surface in some areas, causing the riders to take unusual lines at those points, Rea’s race time was better than his equivalent 2015 season win. He set the fastest lap of the race on lap 14, as he chased down Sykes and then passed him.
This was Rea’s third win in succession on the new Ninja, giving him a perfect 75 points after three races, with one more 20-lap race in Thailand to go tomorrow, Sunday 13th.
There was a glimmer of a chance for Sykes to pull back and pass Rea on the final laps today, particularly when a backmarker impeded Jonathan. Despite Tom drawing close to Rea on an inside line into the final corner Jonathan had done enough to make sure the race victory would be his.
Sykes led for 14 laps as he and his machine showed a marked level of race-long improvement in pace compared to the opening round in Australia last month. This was Tom’s first podium of the year and the 20 points he earned today put him third in the overnight championship order, with 41.
Both Kawasaki riders feel that there are even more improvements to come from their Ninja ZX-10R machines over race distance for race two tomorrow, based on their positive experiences today.