Marco Melandri expects the factory Kawasakis to prove tough to beat in this weekend’s races after trailing the green machines on Friday in Thailand.
The Italian was third fastest behind Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes, a result which exceeded his expectations, and although he still harbours hopes of a first victory since returning to World SBK, Melandri feels he will have his work cut out.
“I’m happy because the team has done a great job and my Panigale R immediately gave me good feedback. This track is more technical than what it looks like: it features hard-braking areas, fast corners, a bit of everything…It’s fun to ride, but I still need to improve under braking and in terms of my lines, especially in the third sector. Still, today went better than what we expected. It will be hard to race in such hot conditions. It would be great to secure front row once again and get a good start. I think the Kawasakis still have an advantage, but we’re ready to make things difficult for them.”
Team-mate Chaz Davies was close behind in fourth and after narrowly missing out to Rea in Australia, the Welshman expects another close fight this weekend.
“Today we’ve been working on our program to get the bike in the ballpark, building our confidence progressively, and it looks like we’re all quite evenly matched in the four top positions. It’s the first time here that the track actually allows us to attack from the very first laps. We’ve made good steps forward in between sessions, but there’s still a couple of areas in which to improve, especially the third sector. We need to find one or two tenths there, but our pace is quite competitive nonetheless. I did my best lap on used tyres this afternoon, so overall it’s been a good first day.”