Jonathan Rea starts title defence in dominating fashion
World champion Jonathan Rea has completed a stunning double in the opening round of the 2016 Motul Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island by narrowly winning both 22-lap races.
The metronomic Kawasaki pilot didn’t put a foot wrong, defeating Chaz Davies (Ducati) and Michael van der Mark (Honda) in Saturday’s race one, and then backed it up Sunday afternoon by blasting to the finish line ahead of van der Mark and Davide Giugliano (Ducati).
The victories were Rea’s 30th and 31st in the production-based series, and he was particularly animated on both occasions, sharing triumphant wheelies with the crowd before stopping at the back of the circuit to celebrate with his ‘local’ mates from Cowes and Bright — he spends his Aussie summers shuttling between the two Victorian towns with his Phillip Island wife, Tatia, and two young sons, Jake and Tyler.
“It is incredible. We had two really composed races this weekend. I just did my thing and was very patient in both races at the beginning. Today I knew that Chaz would make a move again, a copybook story from yesterday, but he came through when there was no space, went completely wide and, unfortunate for him, he made a mistake.
“The set-up changes we made between yesterday and today means the team gave me a bike that was quite easy to ride and I was more ready for attacks. Not just in T4 but in many areas. I thank my team for that. We played the strategy game here in Phillip Island and it really paid off. I feel that we are working at around 85-90% of the potential of the machine and I am really proud to give Kawasaki these two wins on the new bike.”
Rea’s perfect score was the first at Phillip Island since Spaniard Carlos Checa in 2011, and he now takes a 14-point lead (50 to 36) over van der Mark into the second round in Thailand from March 11-13. Giugliano is third in the standings on 29 points from Yamaha’s Sylvain Guintoli (21) and Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes (21).
Van der Mark was delighted after earning his best ever points haul in a WorldSBK round.
Michael Van der Mark
“I got a great start and found myself behind Tom and Johnny. All I wanted in the first part was to save the tyres, so I let them stay ahead. When Tom made a mistake I got up to second place and the pace improved a lot straight away. I didn’t want to lead but I got a good slipstream out of the last corner and passed Rea on the straight. I just tried to do my race at the front but then I saw on the big screen at turn 10 that the group was really big, so I tried to break it a little bit by pushing harder. It did work out, but I knew the last two laps would have been difficult for me.
“When Johnny and Chaz passed me I could hold on quite OK, I wasn’t really scared of them pulling away. Chaz tried a couple of moves for the lead and the last one didn’t work well; I tried to stay as close as possible to Jonathan but I made a small mistake, he didn’t so that was it. To finish second today is an amazing result, it’s been a great weekend and the team did an incredible job to improve the bike. We couldn’t have had a better start to the season.”
“Today I struggled a bit more with the heat, which made us lose some grip. I was expecting it, and therefore kept some margin for the final laps, but touching with Sykes made me lose ground. Still, I kept pushing and I’m really happy with the final outcome. This podium stems from hard teamwork, and I think the crew contributed to 60 percent of it while I did the rest. I dedicate this to my family, who supported me throughout the most difficult times. I also want to thank Ducati, which is helping me to improve professionally. Now I only want to focus on the present and future.”
Australian Josh Brookes is in ninth position on 13 points after his 10-9 results at Phillip Island on the BMW Motorrad S 1000 RR.
Both WorldSBK races saw a freight-train of riders battling at the front, but as the pressure intensified riders were soon being dropped off the conga line.
In the opener it all boiled down to a dogfight between Rea and Davies on the final lap. Davies managed to get past Rea at turn 10, but it was short-lived as Rea blasted straight back into the lead at the next corner and held the advantage to the chequered flag.
The final margin between the pair was 0.063 seconds, followed by van der Mark and Giugliano, who set the fastest lap of the race (1:31.445) on the final 4.448km circuit.
Sykes was fifth, just in front of Guintoli, followed by Leon Camier (MV Agusta), Jordi Torres (BMW Motorrad), Nicky Hayden (Honda) in his WorldSBK debut, and Brookes.
“We are definitely knocking on the door in terms of our showings at Phillip Island. I felt really comfortable in race two up until lap ten. Going into the hairpin I struggled on the downshift. I missed gear and ran off the track. Unfortunately, on that lap I lost 1.6 seconds. A couple of laps later Giugliano and I came together and I lost another 1.6 seconds.
“Overall, we made a couple of small changes to the bike for today and I felt much, much more comfortable. Unfortunately I was not in the correct track position in the last five laps of the race. I am happy for the progress we have made and it something we can take forward. I have never been great here, for some reason, because I love the place.”
Guintoli’s teammate Alex Lowes was as high as sixth but crashed out on lap 16, while another to bite the dust — agonisingly — was German rookie Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad) on the final turn.
In race two, Davies cooked his goose when he crashed on the final lap while trying to pass Rea under brakes at turn four. He remounted and finished in 10th position, a fastest lap of 1:31.321 scant consolation for what could have been.
“Usually I’m able to brake pretty deep, but this time unfortunately I found the limit of the front tyre. I knew it was a risky move, and ideally I wouldn’t have had to try it, but unfortunately Rea erased the small gap I built on the straight. Anyway, I’m not disappointed about my race. We fought for the victory in both races and the bike showed much improvement since last year, especially with the electronics. We just need a bit more top speed.”
Hayden was fourth from Guintoli, Sykes, Jordi Torres (BMW Motorrad), Reiterberger and Brookes.
“I have to say thanks to the team because the bike today was so much better. Yesterday was very useful for us because we learned a lot about the bike set up, in order to make our pace last a bit longer. We were even faster than yesterday and that was a great sign. I enjoyed the race, although I was not quite quick enough to get to the front. On the last lap I knew Giugliano was there and I tried to protect my position a little bit going into Lukey Heights, then I kind of missed the line between turn 10 and 11. He squared it up and drove past me; I was trying to open the gas but all I was getting was traction control cutting in. I should have taken off more traction control in the last two laps. I’m definitely a bit disappointed for not getting onto the podium this time, it would have been great to celebrate my first round with a top 3 finish. Nonetheless, I’m happy to see the bike how competitive the bike is. We have learned a lot here at Phillip Island and now I’m looking forward to going to Thailand.”
“I had a problem at the start and realised we have more work to do. In the end I was able to find good race pace, once I got through the traffic at the start, and was able to ride as I wanted. I felt comfortable on the bike, gained confidence and tried to push ahead but I did not succeed. I’m satisfied anyway because we’ve collected a lot of information and are starting to understand how to prepare for the race. I’m pleased that the next round is in Thailand because I really enjoyed riding there last year. The people are wonderful and the show is guaranteed.”
“In this second race I had to fight at the start. At the beginning of lap one I think I lost some positions but I was quickly able to make that up. The race was fun, I had a good battle with Brookes who was always close. Then I made a mistake and he passed me. This made me mad but on the final lap I was able to get in front of him. I’m not pleased with eighth place but I am happy that I finished the race without crashing, and also that we were able to resolve the small problems we had over the weekend. Now I will rest a little to be in the best possible shape for the next races in Thailand.”
“We made good progress over the weekend,” said Brookes. “However, it makes me a little annoyed that if we had worked on some things earlier we could have done so much better.
“As a rider you want more — you are never satisfied — but if I look at all the circumstances I have done the best I could.
“I am happy with my performance, and hopefully we can make some positive changes heading into Thailand and we can improve again there. It was nice to get the season started and we now have a solid platform to work with.”
Australia’s second rider in the WorldSBK races, Ducati-mounted Mike Jones, was 14th in race one before crashing out of the same spot in race two at turn four.
WorldSBK 2016- Round One – Phillip Island – Superbike Race Two Results
1. Jonathan Rea (Nth Ireland) Kawasaki WIN
2. Michael Van der Mark (Netherlands) Honda 0.831
3. Davide Guigliano (Italy) Ducati 1.472
4. Nicky Hayden (USA) Honda 1.511
5. Sylvain Guintoli (France) Yamaha 2.439
6. Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki 3.320
7. Jordi Torres (Spain) BMW 13.744
8. Markus Reiterberger (Germany) BMW 15.084
9. Josh Brookes (Australia) BMW 15.106
10. Chaz davies (Britain) Ducati 16.276
WorldSBK 2016- Round One – Phillip Island – Superbike Championship Standings
1 Jonathan Rea (Nth Ireland ) 50 points
2. Michael Van Der Mark (Netherland) 36 points
3. Davide Guigliano (ItalY) 29 points
4. Chaz Davies (GBritain) 26 points
5. Sylvain Guintoli (France) 21 points
6. Tom Sykes (GBritain) 21 points
7. Nicky Hayden (USA) 20 points
8. Jordi Torres (Spain) 17 points
9. Josh Brookes (Australia) 13 points
10. Leon Camier (GBritain) 9 points