World king Jonathan Rea out to rev up history quest by building on his dream start
Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea made the ideal start to his bid for an historic third consecutive title with a hard-fought double victory in Australia last month during round one of the 2017 series.
And the Kawasaki Racing Team ace is hoping to repeat the feat at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand during round two this weekend.
Having enjoyed some much-needed downtime with family and friends in Thailand, where he will again be expecting a strong challenge from his team-mate Tom Sykes and Ducati-mounted Chaz Davies, the Ulsterman is raring to get back in action.
“I am really excited to go to Buriram after a great start to the season,” he said of the 4.5km-track that officially opened in 2014.
“I’ve spent the last week here in Phuket on holiday with my family and some friends and it has been great acclimatising to what is the hottest race of the year while enjoying some amazing Thai cuisine.”
Chang has already proven to be a strong venue for Rea and his Kawasaki Racing Team. The Isle of Man-based Ulsterman has won three of the four World Superbike races run at the track, with his team-mate Sykes taking the other, making it a clean sweep for the Japanese manufacturer.
“It is always nice to ride in front of the Thai people and we also have so many Kawasaki fans in the crowd,” said Rea.
“The track itself is a mix of everything — heavy braking, flowing sections and long, fast straights.”
Looking ahead and thinking technically, he added: “It will be important to confirm our base setting here as the bike has changed quite a lot since 2016. We will focus on putting together some strong free practice runs to make sure we are able to fight at the front in both races.”
The Chang International Circuit, in the east of Thailand, is a similar length to Phillip Island in Australia, where round one was held, at 4.554km long. But it is there that the similarities end.
A series of geometric corners, long straights, low-speed corner exits and a very flat stadium-style layout make Chang a completely different challenge. The intense heat and humidity always expected at a Thai race weekend are also factors that the KRT team and other riders on the grid will need to factor in.
Laverty’s fellow Ulsterman Eugene Laverty didn’t quite have the return to the World Superbike Championship that he might have hoped for in Australia during round one.
The former WSB runner-up has struggled to find a base setting on his factory-backed Milwaukee Aprilia, which would allow him to show his full potential.
But it’s still early days for the Toomebridge man, who has signed a two-year deal with Shaun Muir’s UK-based team, and will no doubt be looking to improve on his brace of top-10 finishes in Australia.
• In yesterday’s paper we incorrectly included Randalstown racer Eugene McManus jnr as having travelled to Cartagena in Spain to carrying out testing, and estimated incorrectly the cost of his new KTM. We apologise for the error.
The 17-year-old will again ride in this season’s full Motostar British Championship, his second campaign in the class, where he posted some impressive results last term. Scott Swann, who we featured previously, will compete in the standard class.