WorldSBK 2018 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race Two
Again the unique stresses that the fast and flowing Phillip Island circuit places on the left-hand side of the rear tyre has seen organsiers introduce mandatory pit stops.
All riders must stop and change in a three-lap window between laps 10 and 12.
Today’s grid is also in the reverse format which means that yesterday’s race winner Marco Melandri will start from P9 on the grid alongside Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies. This system has also put Xavi Fores, Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes on to the front row of the grid. Jonathan Rea suffered from major tyre degradation problems yesterday and would be out to make amends today.
Australian entrants Wayne Maxwell and Troy Herfoss are both sitting this one out, citing machine problems, leaving Daniel Falzon as the only local on the WorldSBK grid today.
Eugene Laverty got a ripper start to fly up to third place behind Rea and Fores when the race got underway at 1500. Laverty then took the lead from Rea at turn four. The Irishman maintained that lead throughout the back of the circuit and actually started pulling away from his pursuers.
The battle for second place though was red hot. Leon Camier looked to get a poor run through turn 11, allowing Davies, Rea and Fores to inch away, only for Camier to then have a magnificent run through turn 12 to be in the slipstream and blow past all of them into turn one. The Honda man maintained that position around the next lap but this time it was turn to get dusted at the end of the chute, pushed back to sixth place in what had become a crazy six-rider battle over second place, riders dusting each other up all over the shop.
Meanwhile Eugene Laverty had pulled the pin, he was a long way ahead, but then he threw it away at turn six, left to pick his bike up out of the gravel and rue what might have been…
The new race leader was Michael Van der Mark, then it was Chaz Davies, then it was Jonathan Rea, all in the space of a few corners. The top six riders covered by less than a second as they negotiated the fifth lap of the 22-lap race.
A lap later it was Xavi Fores in the race lead from Davies and Rea. Chaz Davies then took the race lead back after Fores made a small mistake. 1.5-seconds covered the top nine, the pit stops will likely decide the result of this race…
When the pit window opened it was Fores from Davies, Rea, Van der Mark, Melandri, Camier, Sykes then Lowes. Toprak Razgatlioglu had lost touch with the group but there was still only 1.5-seconds covering the top eight.
First of the leading group in the pits were Fores, Rea and Van der Mark. No fast change stuff like they use in World Endurance here which makes the team mechanics performance so important and a big part of the deciding factors of this race.
However, there was a minimum time all riders must spend on their pit stops, to try and prevent mechanics from rushing too fast and possibly getting something wrong in the wheel change which could cause a safety issue for their rider.
Chaz Davies, Marco Melandri, Leon Camier, Tom Sykes and a seemingly unhappy Alex Lowes all came in to pit lane the next time around.
With all those front runners having made their pit stops it saw PJ Jacobsen in the race lead from Aussie wildcard entrant Daniel Falzon!
Daniel Falzon hits the lead!
Then with Jacobsen in the pits it left Falzon in the race lead! The young Aussie missing the pit window and as a result was black flagged out of the race. Not sure if that was part of a plan or a mistake by the YRT boys, but either way, that was the South Australian’s race done.
Chaz Davies then went down on lap 13 while in contention for the race win. After the riders had all made their pit stops and things had started to settle a little it was Xavi Fores leading from Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Michael Van der Mark, Alex Lowes and Leon Camier all still in very close formation. 1.5-seconds covering that top seven..
New lap record to Marco Melandri
Marco Melandri set a new race lap record on lap 15, a 1m30.848 despite the windy conditions to the race one winner. That Ducati Panigale R wriggles its way around the circuit, the Italian preferring a lower tyre pressure than some of the other riders, sacrificing a little stability in the search for more grip, but gee, it looked like a real wild ride…
Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes then both made a small mistake into turn one the next time around, both riders immediately recovered though and was back in the thick of it.
Xavi Fores in the lead from Jonathan Rea and Marco Melandri on lap 18, that trio breaking away from the others and running nose-to-tail on their own. Two-seconds covered the top seven, but the three up front now had a small buffer over their pursuers.
Jonathan Rea in to the lead
Jonathan Rea hit the lead early on lap 19 but Fores got him back out of Southern Loop, Melandri in third. Tom Sykes was inching towards the leading trio, his challenge for the win reinvigorated.
Rea up the inside of Fores into turn one next time around, this time maintains sway over the Ducati man through Southern Loop and turn four. Melandri then gazumped Fores after the #12 ran a little wide, those moves giving Rea some breathing space.
At the last lap board it was still Rea from Melandri, Fores third. Melandri had got a ripper run through turns 11 and 12 and he got past Rea into turn one but Rea ran really deep in fast and somehow managed to gather it up and have the lead into Southern Loop.
Rea maintained his position through the back of the circuit, Melandri tried to get close enough over Lukey to challenge into MG but could not make it happen.
Melandri then got an awesome run through the final turns, lining up Rea on to the chute despite Rea getting an awesome launch out of turn 11, that Melandri gained back through turn 12. The pair crossed the stripe but visually there was no way to tell who was the winner, the riders themselves were not even sure.
Melandri by a cigarette paper
The timing system gave it to Melandri, a perfect tactical run by the Italian through that final section. Sacrificing a little through turn 11 to instead line up a perfect run through 12 and onto the main straight to pip Rea at the line.
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