Race 1 was run in brilliant sunshine on Saturday and Race 2 on a streaming wet circuit after a downpour on Sunday morning forced the postponement of the Supersport Race until after the main event.
While Saturday saw the dominant Kawasakis of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea holding off Chaz Davies’ Ducati Team machine for another emphatic Green Meanie 1-2, Sunday’s extreme conditions turned the form-book on its ear as 2006 MotoGP World champion Nicky Hayden used his vast experience of Sepang to take his first World Superbike race win.
Alex Lowes on the Pata Yamaha took the holeshot from second on the grid, ahead of Sykes and defending title-holder Rea, while teenage Honda hotshot Michael van der Mark came up from 10th to sixth in one move.
But by the end of lap two normal service had been resumed with the Kawasakis in front and Davies in hot pursuit. Sykes immediately broke away, setting a new lap record on his first flying lap, and was never challenged for the lead, while Rea finally shook of a determined challenge from Davies to come home five seconds behind his team-mate, 2.4s clear of the Ducati.
Markus Reiterberger made good on his promise as the rookie to watch at Sepang, leading his works BMW team-mate Jordi Torres on a charge through the field to run as high as fourth and sixth respectively before a mechanical gremlin forced Reiterberger out on lap 12 - but on the same lap Torres finally muscled his way past Hayden to grab fourth.
Lowes held fourth until he went farming on lap six, rejoining in ninth, and worked his way back up to fifth - just ahead of Davide Giugliano on the second Ducati Team bike - by the end, bagging valuable points for the team’s only entry, as team-mate Sylvain Guintoli wasn’t yet fit to ride after his crash at Imola.
Van der Mark passed his works Honda team-mate Hayden on the penultimate lap to finish eighth while Anthony West, standing in for the injured Sylvain Barrier at Pedercini, come up from 11th on the grid to finish ninth – after having sat on the bike for the first time on Friday! MV Agusta team leader Leon Camier battled during the early part of the race but seemed to find his feet towards the end, moving up to pass BMW privateer Josh Brookes three laps from the flag and round out the top 10.
A cautious line-up threaded through turns 1 and 2 for the first time as the front row of Sykes, Rea and Lowes was joined by Hayden from the second row. Hayden nipped through to the lead at the end of lap one and soon began to pull a gap on Rea, who had passed team-mate Sykes in a cautious debate for second.
Only Hayden seemed confident in the initial laps, with Rea and Davies falling back while Sykes and Lowes disputed fourth third.
By lap four, however, Davies’ team-mate Giugliano began to pick up the pace, setting the fastest laps of the race and moving past Tom Sykes into fourth. On lap 10 Davies passed Rea for second, a lap later Giugliano relegated the world champion to fourth and then surprised everybody by passing his team leader and setting off in pursuit of Hayden.
He closed the gap down to little more than a second, but there were too few laps left and Giugliano came home a magnificent second, while Rea came back at Davies three laps from the end to maintain his perfect record of podium finishes in 2016.
West lived up to his reputation as a rainmaster with a beautifully judged ride for fifth – the team’s best result of 2016 so far and for the second Kawasaki home, well clear of Aprilia veteran Alex de Angelis, Sykes, Camier and Reiterberger, who completed the top 10.
Local hero Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Kawasaki) kept raucous home fans on their feet as he went fifth on the grid to the lead, dicing with Honda rider Ayrton Badovini for the win on the final lap.
Badovini dived through on inside of the last the corner to take a dramatic win by half a tenth of a second, with Gino Rea (MV Agusta) and factory Honda rider PJ Jacobsen less than a second behind.
Rea got the best start, rocketing away into the lead in front of reigning champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki), as Khairuddin came up from the second row of the grid to challenge Sofuoglu and then close down on race leader Rea.
The new surface a Sepang, especially designed to help with the local climate, was drying out as Khairuddin dived through to the front at the final corner on lap three to lead a World Supersport race for the first time. The conditions mixed up the World Supersport grid for an exciting race of nervous apexes, with the home hero shining and new addition Ayrton Badovini taking an incredible win.
Honda’s PJ Jacobsen got another good haul of points as the American kept cool under pressure, while Sofuoglu suffered more in the conditions than his pace in the dry had indicated, allowing wet weather specialist and Assen winner Kyle Smith get by in the closing stages and come in fifth.
MV Agusta championship contender Jules Cluzel bagged a solid haul of points in seventh, just ahead of World Supersport title rival Randy Krummenacher, a newcomer to the class this season and Sofuoglu’s works Kawasaki team-mate.
Privateers Alex Baldolini (MV Agusta) and Federico Caricasulo (Honda) completed the top 10
Original source: Maiden WSBK win for Hayden