Felice Monteleone – FMPhotoSport World SuperBike News
Friday, 20 March2015, Thailandia WSBK Round
Lowes snatches first place from Rea on opening day in Thailand
After the second Free Practice session – held in temperatures nudging 39 degrees Celsius – the man at the head of the combined WorldSBK timesheets on the opening day of on-track action at the Chang International Circuit was Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki). The 24-year-old Englishman was the first rider to break the 1’35 barrier to record a 1’34.685s lap time with four minutes to go this afternoon.
As he was edged out of first place after dominating the morning session, long-time leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) tried hard to retake the top spot, closing to within 0.066s of his fellow Briton with his final lap, the pair comfortably ahead of the chasing pack.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team), Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils), Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda World Superbike) rounded out a top six that saw five manufacturers represented and separated by less than a second.
The remaining top-ten riders in the overall standings were Troy Bayliss (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team), Matteo Baiocco (Althea Racing Ducati), Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) and David Salom (Team Pedercini Kawasaki).
The reigning and former FIM Superstock 1000cc Cup winner Leandro Mercado (Barni Racing Ducati) and Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia) were locked together in 11th and 14th respectively after two encouraging sessions. The pair were split by Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda WSBK Team) and Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) with former 125cc GP World Champion Nico Terol (Althea Racing Ducati) in 15th place.
After suffering a technical problem with both machines in FP1, Niccolo Canepa and Larry Pegram (Team Hero EBR) were able to take part in the afternoon timed period, completing the opening day in 18th and 23rd.
The final Free Practice session that will decide the Tissot-Superpole qualifiers is scheduled to take place at 9.45am local time.
Kyle Smith tops timesheets in first day of Thai WSS action
After an extended first free practice session in which American PJ Jacobsen (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres) was fastest, this afternoon’s 45 minute FP2 saw Kyle Smith (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) emerge on top of the combined classification courtesy of a 1.38.490s lap time.
With ambient temperatures touching almost 40 degrees Celsius the times this afternoon were not as fast as many had expected, but nevertheless, almost all of the riders improved on their personal best times with Smith the best of them all. The British rider overhauled the FP1 best that was set by Jacobsen to head the combined times, and will go into tomorrow’s third free practice session with an advantage of 0.102s over the American, who remained in second place thanks to the lap-time set earlier in the day. New father Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) moved into 3rd position overall in the final 5 minutes despite a number of off track excursions.
Current Championship leader Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) endured a similar fate as in the opening round, the Frenchman suffering a technical problem on his second lap of today’s first session. Ever jovial, he joked that it had not affected the race weekend too much in Phillip Island, before posting the 4th fastest time this afternoon to move ahead of Thai rider Ratthapark Wilairot (CORE Motorsport Thailand) and Gino Rea (CIA Landlords Insurance Honda) who were 5th and 6th.
Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres), Lorenzo Zanetti (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), Martin Cardenas (CIA Landlords Insurance Honda) and Marco Faccani (San Carlo Puccetti Racing) completed the top ten.
Ratthapong Wilairot (A.P Honda Racing Thailand) missed the morning session but regrouped to finish a respectable 13th overall ahead of team mate and former Moto2 regular Thitipong Warokorn who was 17th on his WSS debut.
Chalermpol Polomai (Yamaha Thailand Racing Team) and Fabio Menghi (VFT Racing) were the only two fallers in FP1 and FP2 respectively. Both were unhurt.