Tom Sykes (KRT) took his 28th career pole position last weekend with a 2’03.240 lap that gives him the best possible starting place for Sunday’s two WorldSBK races at Sepang. Championship leader Jonathan Rea (KRT) was seventh in Superpole and now starts the 16-lap races from the third row of the grid.
In a very open Superpole 2 session that saw several manufacturers competing for the pre-race advantage Sykes and his official Ninja ZX-10R came out on top after he made the best use of his qualifying set-up close to the end of the 15-minute session.
Already second in the all-time Superpole winners’ rankings, Sykes put it all together again after a sometimes challenging period of practice, in which he and his team-mate Rea lost a full practice session due to a fall of heavy rain shortly before the second period of track action on Friday afternoon. Sykes is now confident that his team has found a strong race pace in readiness for Sunday, at what is one of Tom’s favourite circuits.
Concentrating on race pace and tyre life on day two Rea was on course for a front row start in Superpole 2, after fitting a qualifying rear tyre. Finding a false neutral entering Turn 9 he lost vital time that it was not possible to claw back. Despite starting from the third row the wide and open nature of the Sepang circuit should help him in the task of passing other riders, to make sure he is in a good position approaching the final few laps.
Rea feels he has made the correct preparations to be strong at the end of each race, and if results go his way he has a mathematical chance to wrap up the championship itself tomorrow.
Tom Sykes stated: “I had a great start to the weekend as my wife had just given birth to a baby daughter. On track we were a little bit behind to start with as we had a big schedule of work this weekend and had to compromise on it because of the session we missed yesterday in the rain. That is the same for everybody so overall I am relatively happy. We did what we wanted for Superpole and did what we wanted to do in Free Practice 4. The bike settings came good and I was really happy for that. In FP3 we stayed on a harder tyre all session just to evaluate some things and we almost got caught out. On paper seventh at that point may have looked bad, but in reality it was not the case and we moved back up the order. I think tomorrow will be interesting and we do not look in bad shape, so I am relatively confident. The weather may be a bit hit and miss but we are set-up now for dry conditions.”
Jonathan Rea stated: “During Superpole, in Turn 9, when I shifted to first gear I found neutral. I could not stop the bike and it was really difficult to engage first gear. In the end I blipped the throttle and found it but there was a big reaction from the bike and I went wide. That ruined my best lap there. I pushed really hard to recover the time and had another little moment in the last corner. It was difficult because we had the pace to be on the front row. Even my ideal time, if you take the race tyre sector into account, is third fastest, so I am a little bit frustrated because it makes the races a little bit harder tomorrow. Not impossible, but harder. My guys have still given me a good bike with the limited amount of time we have had in the dry. My riding style and where the setting of the bike has gone this weekend means I am feeling very confident that we can have at least some tyre left at the end compared to our rivals. I expect to finish the race strongly but it is going to be difficult in the first laps. Not as difficult as Laguna because this track presents a lot more passing opportunities.”
David Salom (Kawasaki Team Pedercini) was unable to make it out of Superpole 1 and into Superpole 2 and he now starts the races from 17th place. Roman Ramos (Team Go Eleven Kawasaki) is one row ahead, thanks to his 15th place qualifying performance in Superpole 1.