Bautista and Rea swapped places continuously in the latter stages of the session, whilst Yamaha are also in the mix.
The first session of the Pirelli Thai Round at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram went the way of Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati). As the sun bared down and the temperatures rose, on-track action saw riders acclimatising to both weather conditions and their bikes in the opening session of the weekend.
Bautista, who has comparatively far less experience at the circuit than most of the grid, had a good opening session, reacquainting himself with the circuit and the Ducati Panigale V4 R. The Spaniard set 20 laps on his way to top position – his last lap toppling Jonathan Rea. Teammate Chaz Davies started his weekend off in much better fashion than in Australia, inside the top ten for the majority of the session and moving into fifth with under two minutes to go.
Rea, who has dominated previous races at the Chang International Circuit, set about his business in an emphatic manner, almost instantly placing in top position and soon enough, with a time that was far better than in FP1 12 months before. The reigning champion completed the session in second place, whilst teammate Leon Haslam had a more challenging return to Buriram, completing the top ten, 1.223s off of the leading pace.
Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was in third, putting a late lap in to elevate himself into the top three placings. With 17 laps complete, the Dutchman’s quest to being in the mix on race day certainly started well. Teammate Alex Lowes consolidated Yamaha’s strong pace with sixth, making them the only factory team to have both bikes firmly inside the top half-dozen.
Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) was enjoying a healthy start to his second round with his new team. The Italian pursued the dueling Rea and Bautista for much of the session, accumulating 15 laps and finishing in fourth. Teammate Sandro Cortese enjoyed his WorldSBK debut in Thailand and finished a strong seventh place, just 1.1s behind Bautista after 18 laps.
Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) led the German manufacturer’s charge and completed the top five. Sykes, a previous winner at the Thai venue, will be looking to utilise his bike’s chassis to counter the top speed deficit as the development of the new S1000RR continues. Teammate Markus Reiterberger was 13th overall, 0.9s off his teammate and 1.8s off Bautista’s pace.
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Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) enjoyed a promising start after his opening round gremlins, finishing ninth. The Irishman, who has a rather poor record at Buriram, will be hoping to maintain his top ten placing right the way through the weekend. Setting 14 laps and less than half-a-tenth from the ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati of Davies in eighth, there are far more positive signs for Laverty.
Honda failed to get a bike inside the top ten but Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea HONDA Team) was the best in 12th, just behind Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing). Camier’s teammate, Ryuichi Kiyonari was 14th but looking far competitive than in Australia, whilst Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) completed the top 15!