Reigning world champion Jonathan Rea continued his blistering start to the season, winning the first WSBK race at Buriram in Thailand, just 0.222 seconds ahead of his team-mate Tom Sykes.
Pole sitter Michael Van Der Mark was passed by the Factory Kawasakis at the start, with Rea getting the holeshot ahead of Sykes, but in the second lap Sykes took back the race lead, a position that he managed to hold onto until the sixteenth lap when he was overtaken by again Rea.
Sykes stalked Rea for lap after lap and got a glimmer of a chance for Sykes to pull back and pass Rea in the final laps as the Ulsterman was impeded by a backmarker. Sykes closed the gap and looked to make a move on the final corner but Rea had the better drive and saw chequered flag first.
Van der Mark finished an impressive third place, some nine seconds further back.
Rea said: “The pace was fast; I did not expect it to be so fast as all weekend we have been slower than last year. So it was a good, fast race. I put my head down and with four laps to go I got a small gap of about 0.7 or 0.8 seconds on Tom. On the final laps I got caught out in the first turn by another rider but it was not so much. I had done all my work by then as I had completely emptied my tank with about four laps to go to try and get away. I am a little bit tired now because I went full gas in those last four laps. We were able to capitalise on that work and I feel like I rode for a stronger win than I have had for a long time. Tomorrow, I expect my bike set-up will be much stronger.”
Race One results:
1) Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team)
2) Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team)
3) Michael Van Der Mark (Honda World Superbike Team)
4) Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
5) Markus Reiterberger (Althea BMW Racing Team)
6) Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WSBK Team)
7) Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Yamaha Official WSBK Team)
8) Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team)
9) Alex De Angelis (IodaRacing Team)
10) Lorenzo Savadori (IodaRacing Team)