WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Superbike Race One

Jonathan Rea takes nail biting race one win from Chaz Davies at Phillip Island

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One

As WorldSBK 2017 race one got underway exactly on time at 1500 this afternoon at Phillip Island it was a Ducati 1-2 into turn one, Melandri leading Davies as the battle got underway. Poleman Jonathan Rea took second place from Davies as they negotiated Southern Loop for the first time, Tom Sykes then pushed Davies further back to fourth as they negotiated the Hayshed for the first time.

Across the stripe to start lap two it was still Melandri in the lead but only momentarily, as Rea eased his way past Melandri into turn one, then between turns one and two Sykes followed his example, pushing the #33 Ducati back to third place. 

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Marco Melandri, Chaz Davies
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes, Marco Melandri, Chaz Davies

As they tipped into turn one the next time around Melandri played spoiler to Tom Sykes, moving his #7 Ducati back up to second place. That little tussle was helping Rea, the Irishman stretched a few bike lengths away from his pursuers. Xavi Fores was strengthening his hold on fifth position, pulling away from Alex Lowes and Eugene Laverty. 

Rea actually took time out to have a good look over his shoulder on the exit of turn four on lap four, something you see very little of at this level of racing. Perhaps he could hear those booming Ducati machines behind him as he slowed in to that corner, they had closed up on him since the gap he had been shown at his pit board the previous time down the chute.

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Chaz Davies
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Chaz Davies

Chaz Davies got the better of his teammate early on lap five, and the top six had really closed up on that previous circuit. At this juncture less than a second covered that top six. Lorenzo Savadori was trying to chase that group down and turn it into a seven strong contest, on the next lap, however, the Aprilia man threw it away at turn six, his challenge over for today. 

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Image by TBG
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Image by TBG

Marco Melandri then hit the lead in what was perhaps starting to be somewhat a measure of tyre conservation, as the track temperature had heated up this afternoon, and they still had another 16-laps still to run in the 22-lap race. Nobody was game to drop the hammer to try and make a break, all the top runners being extremely cautious to preserve their rear Pirelli considering the 42-degree celsius track temperature.

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Marco Melandri
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Marco Melandri

Tyre life would not be a problem for Widlcard Josh Brookes, his privateer YZF-R1M crying enough, the Australian returning to pitlane with a ‘technical problem’.

For the rest of the field though they were definitely well into a tyre conservation strategy, the lap-times had slowed, even though the on-track battle for position was still being rendered in earnest. This was allowing yet more riders to get in touch with that leading group, as they started lap ten only 2.5-seconds covered the top 12.

Alex Lowes decided that he was not worried about tyre life, despite having a softer rear option Pirelli than most of his fellow combatants, the Yamaha man squeezed past Jonathan Rea, and then Marco Melandri ,before tagging on to the tail of the ZX-10R of race leader Tom Sykes as the race headed for the halfway mark. 

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Alex Lowes
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Alex Lowes

Lowes then pushed the Pata Yamaha YZF-R1M through to the race lead as the bout entered its second half.  Jonathan Rea saw that Lowes might be able to escape and made his way up to second place. The next lap around Rea pulled alongside Lowes across the stripe and took the lead before turn one, obviously deciding to lower his lap-times and perhaps try and make a break, using that Yamaha as a buffer put between himself and his pursuers. 

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Image by TBG
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Image by TBG

Alex Lowes then made a mistake out of MG Hairpin and was taken by Sykes and Melandri, Lowes got Melandri right back but Sykes’ consolidated that second place, the rear Pirelli of that Kawasaki ZX-10R squirming in protest at the punishment being meted out by the right wrist of the Yorkshireman.

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Tom Sykes
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Tom Sykes

Chaz Davies took third place from Alex Lowes on lap 14 and closed up onto the tail of Sykes’ Kawasaki, both Davies and Sykes putting in their new fastest laps of the race thus far as they desperately tried to claw back that half-a-second lead that Rea had managed to break away. Marco Melandri then went down at turn two after clashing with either Lowes or Davies, I couldn’t really tell which one but I am sure there was some sort of contact. 

On lap 16 the leading quartet were all within touching distance of each other, as Camier and Fores tried to stay in touch of the final battle for the podium positions.

Sykes hit the lead with five laps to run as Davies, Rea, Lowes were all in close formation and were now joined by Leon Camier on the MV Agusta, Xavi Fores was certainly not out of the picture either.

Rea slipped up the inside of Chaz Davies into turn one on lap 18 to move back up to second place while his teammate led the way. Alex Lowes went up the inside of Davies on a forceful move at turn four, Davies then tripped up Jonathan Rea which allowed Lowes to move up to second place.

Rea and Davies pushed Lowes back to fourth again at turn one the next time around, those tussles helping race leader Tom Sykes but still not much more than a second covered the top six.

Jonathan Rea then took the lead from his teammate into turn one, Sykes’ ZX-10R looked to really be struggling for rear grip now in the closing laps. Davies then also got the better of Sykes and with two laps to run the battle for the win looked to now down to a tussle between two men, Rea versus Davies, Northern Ireland versus Wales. The pair side-by-side down the chute the next time around as Sykes valiantly tried to stay in touch.

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies

Rea and Davies side-by-side as they got the last lap board, Davies took the lead in turn one, Rea got him back into turn two, the pair almost touched on the exit of Southern Loop. Rea still held sway under brakes at turn four, he then put everything into getting drive through the middle sections of the circuit and looked to have done enough, but then Davies regained some ground into MG Hairpin, they were nose to tail through turn 11 and 12 then nothing in it at the stripe, Rea scoring the win by 4-hundredths of a second. Tom Sykes rounding out the podium ahead of Alex Lowes, Leon Camier and Xavi Fores.

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Jonathan Rea
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Jonathan Rea

Jonathan Rea

“It will be exciting times on the weekend and one lap pace I think will be completely different to 22 lap pace. It is important to manage the race in the right way. We did 1’30.2 on a race tyre today so I dread to think what Superpole is going to be with qualifiers! You are going to have to get into the thick of the 1’29s to get on pole. I am going to give it a good go anyway tomorrow because I feel good on the bike. We still have a few little bits for me to try to maximise acceleration when the tyre drops. We have had a Monday and Tuesday test here so we should be pretty much ready to go. We will go out and check the bike over to get ready for Superpole. With the slightly longer 25-minute FP3 on Saturday this year you can make a long run, and that is important.”

WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Jonathan Rea
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Jonathan Rea

Tom Sykes

“I think we are OK on race distance but we are just struggling for an initial lap time. We will see how it goes tomorrow as we still have a bit of work to do. But on lap 18 of a race simulation I was only three tenths slower than my best lap. We just need to find a bit of a set-up change to manage a bit better in the windy conditions. We have gathered some information and tomorrow we will try to be a bit sharper again. It was tough with the headwind so it definitely affected everyone in the afternoon session. Hopefully I can make an improvement tomorrow so it will not affect me quite as much.”

WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One

  1. Jonathan Rea / Kawasaki
  2. Chaz Davies +0.042 / Ducati
  3. Tom Sykes +1.050 / Kawasaki
  4. Alex Lowes +1.082 / Yamaha
  5. Leon Camier +3.002 / MV Agusta
  6. Xavi Fores +3.320 / Ducati
  7. Jordi Torres +8.725
  8. Eugene Laverty +12.135
  9. Michael Van Der Mark +12.180
  10. Randy Krummenacher +12.439
  11. Nicky Hayden +19.344
  12. Markus Reiterberger +21.336
  13. Ramos +24.866
  14. Alex De Angelis +24.902
  15. Stefan Bradl +28.936
  16. Russo +39.404
  17. Badovini +42.941
  18. Jezek +48.043
WorldSBK 2017 - Round One - Phillip Island - Race One - Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies, Tom Sykes
WorldSBK 2017 – Round One – Phillip Island – Race One – Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies, Tom Sykes

Previously…

WorldSBK Superpole

Kawasaki factory riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes produced stunning laps to seize the top two grid positions for this afternoon’s season-opening race in the 2017 Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island, with Rea snatching the top spot seconds before session end.

The 15-minute Superpole qualifying session was electric, with Sykes (1:29.605) seemingly on track to secure his second successive pole position at Phillip Island before Rea (1:29.573) upstaged his teammate to snare the No. 1 spot on the grid.

Ducati pair Marco Melandri (1:29.734) and Chaz Davies (1:29.847) and Yamaha’s Alex Lowes (1:30.016) were next in line, with the top five riders all eclipsing the previous best lap around Phillip Island (1:30.020) set by Sykes in 2016.

Melandri will sit alongside Rea and Sykes on the front row for race one at 3:00pm, with Davies, Lowes and Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia, 1:30.023) on the second row.

Jordi Torres (BMW), Xavi Fores (Ducati) and Leon Camier (MV Agusta) are next line, and then it’s Michael van der Mark (Yamaha), Nicky Hayden (Honda) and Markus Reiterberger (BMW) on row four.

Fores crashed in Superpole, as did Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) who will start race one from 14th on the grid. Laverty and Rea are the only Phillip Island WorldSBK race winners in this weekend’s field.

New South Welshman Josh Brookes will start from 16th on his privately entered Yamaha.

World Supersport Superpole

American Patrick Jacobsen peeled off a brilliant late flyer to claim pole position for tomorrow’s round one of the Supersport World Championship at Phillip Island.

Jacobsen’s third pole position in the WorldSSP ranks continued his excellent form all weekend on the factory MV Agusta, with his 1:33.128 pole lap proving too string for fellow front row starters Jules Cluzel (Honda, 1:33.23) and Italian Federico Caricasulo (Yamaha, 1:33.250). Cluzel is a two-time WorldSSP winner at Phillip Island.

Briton Kyle Ryde (1:33.483), holding up the fortunes of the Kawasaki factory team after the withdrawal of Kenan Sofuoglu with injury, sat at the top of the timesheets with two-and-a-half minutes to go before he was swallowed up by the top three in the late flurry.

Still, he will start from the head of the second row, with Lucas Mahias (Yamaha, 1:33.669) and Alex Baldolini (MV Agusta, 1:33.729) alongside him.

Aussies Aiden Wagner (Honda), Lachlan Epis (Kawasaki) and Anthony West (Yamaha)will fill spots 20-22 on the 24-bike grid.

The shortened 15-lap WorldSSP race will be held at 1:30pm on Sunday.