In the blistering Malaysian heat where the track temperatures soared, Pata Honda rider Jonathan Rea scored valuable championship points in Sunday’s two sixth-round World Superbike championship races.
The two 16-lap races at the fast and flowing 5.548km Sepang circuit near Kuala Lumpur were both won by Aprilia’s Marco Melandri, with 27-year-old Rea finishing the two races in sixth position as he battled through the heat. Rea was innocently caught in a first-lap crash in the first outing and was forced off the Sepang circuit at turn three before rejoining in last place. He quickly set about taking advantage of the absence of series leader Tom Sykes and scored 10 valuable championship points at the flag.
Race two was interrupted by oil on the track and restarted over 10 laps, with Rea starting from seventh place. He matched the pace of riders in front of him but was not able to improve on his first race result.
“It’s been a very tough weekend and it’s not where we want to be,” reflected the Ballyclare man. “But we kind of made some steps forward when it mattered, especially in race two when I was able to carry a much better pace than I have all weekend in the heat. But it seems our engine braking system is too sensitive to different conditions and different circuits, which is frustrating because when I had grip at the beginning I had no problem entering the corners but at the end of the race I had a lot of chatter from the rear when the grip went down.
“But I really enjoyed riding this track, even though we didn’t get the full potential out of the CBR this weekend. I look forward to the next race at Misano because it’s a circuit that I love.”
Despite a broken bone in his right foot after a testing accident the week previous Voltcom Crescent Suzuki racer Eugene Laverty made up for his Donington disappointment by storming to third positionin race one.
In the 10-lap sprint race two, he brought the Suzuki across the line for seventh.
The championship continues at Misano World Circuit in Italy on June 22.
Championship standings: 1st, Tom Sykes 201 pts; 2nd, Sylvain Guintoli 188 pts; 3rd, Jonathan Rea 179 pts; 8th Eugene Laverty 90 pts.