Current WorldSBK points leader Alvaro Bautista left it until his last lap to claim top spot in the opening WorldSBK free practice in Thailand this morning.
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. Team-mate 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) 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.
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) 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.
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) 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.
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 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 Honda) was the best in 12th, just behind Jordi Torres Pedercini Kawasaki). Camier’s teammate, Ryuichi Kiyonari was 14th but looking far competitive than in Australia, whilst Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) completed the top 15.