BMW Motorrad Motorsport
Buriram, Thailand, 16/03/2016, FIM Superbike World Championship
The second round of the 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) led the BMW riders and teams into the tropical heat of Thailand. With ambient temperatures as high as 36 degrees Celsius, races three and four of the season were an exhausting affair for all involved.
Like the opening round a fortnight ago in Australia, the second race weekend at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram was a successful one from a BMW Motorrad Motorsport point of view: the Althea BMW Racing Team, in particular, mixed it with the established works teams at the front of the field.
The top BMW rider this time was the youngster: Markus Reiterberger of the Althea BMW Racing Team, who celebrated his 22nd birthday in Thailand. The young Bavarian was making his first appearance in Buriram, but this did not prevent him from immediately setting fast lap times again on his BMW S 1000 RR. It took him next to no time to realise that the layout suited him, as he was able to exploit one of his greatest strengths – braking late into corners.
“Reiti” once again qualified directly for Superpole 2, in which he secured ninth place on the grid. His fastest time in this deciding session came on race tyres, as he struggled on the brakes while attempting to improve his time on the softer qualifying tyres.
Prior to race one, the Althea BMW team and the experts from HP Race Support set to work fine-tuning Reiterberger’s RR. They found a set-up that allowed him to switch his weight more easily on the bike when changing direction. A layout that suited him, a good feeling on the RR, and clever race tactics – the ingredients that helped Reiterberger to a great result in race one.
Reiterberger exceeded all expectations in the opening race: fifth place was a success that few had reckoned with at this early point in the season. Reiterberger bided his time a little at first, but then started to move through the field after about one third of the race distance. By the 14th lap of the 20-ap race, he had climbed into sixth place. With two laps remaining he gained another position when Davide Guigliano crashed, opening the door to fifth place.
“I’m proud of my race,” said the Althea BMW Racing rider. “My BMW S 1000 RR performed really well today. I saw the riders ahead and tried to reach them, getting closer and closer. But then I saw that some of them were making mistakes and so I focused on avoiding errors and getting to the end: this was the key to my fifth place finish.” General Manager Genesio Bevilacqua was also full of praise for his performance.
Reiterberger initially dropped back to 12th place in race two on Sunday. “I felt comfortable on my BMW S 1000 RR even if I was unable to match the times of the fastest guys, despite the fact I was pushing hard,” he said. However, he once again launched an impressive move at the halfway point of the race. He made up four positions in just three laps, climbing into eighth place behind team-mate Jordi Torres. He then passed the Spaniard on the inside in the final corner to take seventh place. “We made the right tyre choice and towards the end I was able to be faster and reach those ahead of me. That is very positive, although we need to find a way to be faster through the first three laps.”
Team-mate Torres rounded off another impressive team result for the Althea BMW Racing Team, finishing both races in the top eight. The Spaniard caught the eye on Friday, when he clocked the third fastest time of the day – and that despite crashing in the first of Friday’s two practice sessions. He qualified tenth in Superpole 2.
A small mistake initially saw Torres drop back to 14th place on the opening lap. However, he fought back well to cross the finish line eighth. In Sunday’s race he was able to gain positions early on, and was running seventh at the halfway point. He held onto this position until the final corner, when he was distracted by a lapped rider who did not leave him enough room to pass. The minor lapse in concentration allowed team-mate Reiterberger through, and the young German went on to finish just a few thousandths of a second ahead of him.
“We’re pleased because we are gradually reaching the others. We’re still only at the start of the season and we’re on the right track,” said Torres.
For WorldSBK newcomers Milwaukee BMW, the race weekend in Thailand was all about gaining more experience in the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. The circuit was new to both riders - reigning BSB champion Josh Brookes and former MotoGP rider Karel Abraham. The riders and team also worked on familiarising themselves more with the BMW S 1000 RR, which is still a new bike for everyone.
Team principal Shaun Muir’s outfit made great progress at the start of the race weekend. Abraham was third fastest in the third free practice session on Saturday morning. The Czech rider then clocked the fastest time in Superpole 1 to progress to the all-important Superpole 2. Brookes missed out on qualifying for SP2 by just two thousandths of a second.
Abraham started the race from 11th on the grid, with Brookes 13th. The results of practice and Superpole saw the team achieve the first of the goals it had set for itself in Thailand. However, the two riders were unable to convert their promising grid positions into the results they desired in the races themselves. Abraham was running a fine 12th in race one until he crashed while attempting to gain another position on the final lap. The Czech came home 15th in race two.
Brookes had opted for the harder tyre compound for the opening race, as he was not sure how long the softer tyre would hold up in the hot temperatures. “I think that was the wrong decision,” he said afterwards. He also struggled all race with brake issues. In the end, the Australian finished 15th to claim one point. In race two, he lacked the necessary confidence in the bike to really push hard. This time he narrowly missed out on the points, finishing 16th.
The third race weekend of the 2016 Superbike World Championship takes place from 1st to 3rd April at Motorland Aragón in Spain.