Chaz Davies, who bagged the biggest WorldSBK points haul in Thailand with a third place and then a race victory, had no hesitation in saying how much his Buriram 25-pointer – the first for any rider not on a Kawasaki since the championship first visited there in 2015 – means to him and his hopes for the 2018 season.
“This has always been the absolute bogey track for me,” said Davies. “I have been in the gravel here probably as much as I have finished races. So it is nice to have two podiums here, and one win, which is beyond expectation.”
With the Kawasaki riders in trouble for more reasons than just stricter limits on their ultimate engine revs than any other four-cylinder this year, Davies saw Thailand as a positive indication of where things could go for all championship challengers.
“This has been a real boost for us and everybody else, because yesterday Johnny was within sniffing distance and I felt that if any one of us had have put a clean race together we could actually have gone with him for race distance. And that proved true today.
"The pace today was at least as good as his, if not possibly slightly quicker through the course of the race, maybe a few slow laps. Anyway, it was two different races. He made it work yesterday and we made it work today, and I am really happy with that.”
Davies had already scored a satisfying third on Saturday, but knew there was more to come if he got the set-up right. “We improved my bike overnight, a good step better,” said Davies. “I got some edge traction, which was missing quite a lot yesterday.”
Rea, not any of his rivals, still leaves Buriram with the championship lead, despite his bad luck with a fourth in race two, but it is only a lead of two points. And most of the rest of the top riders are all within 20-odd points of Rea and each other.
Not a normal situation when Rea has been able to pull an immediate points gap at both Tom Sykes’s least lucky circuit of Phillip Island, or Davies’ least favoured layout, Buriram.
“It is a very different outlook to the season at these early stages, but it is early stages,” said Chaz. “Compared to normal, Jonathan would have already wrapped up four victories to this point. It is all to play for and also on track it looks like he is having to work a bit harder, and I feel I am having to work harder as well.”
Davies has not been in such close proximity with Rea or Sykes for long periods on track yet, so is still waiting to see just how the Kawasaki has been directly affected by the new rules that saw it lose 1,100rpm from its allowable maximum revs.
“I have not really got around Jonathan or Tom yet, so I cannot really see how their bike is working. I cannot really judge on where they have lost compared to last year,” said Davies. “But we have lost 800rpm and we have a thinner range to work with. It has certainly levelled things out and made things a bit closer. And a bit more interesting anyway.”
Davies now heads to his favourite circuit of all, ready to take on Rea and all others, with the next round taking place at Motorland Aragon in Spain in mid-April.