Superbike World Championship Round 1 - Race 1:
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) and his team-mate Tom Sykes each led the first race of the new FIM Superbike World Championship season at Phillip Island in Australia and contested the win right to the very last lap. Ultimately, Rea took his 39thcareer race win and Sykes only his third ever podium finish at this circuit, after a highly successful opening race day for the new Ninja ZX-10RR.
With tyre wear always a potential issue at the unique and fast 4.445km Phillip Island circuit, the early pace of the race was controlled by the top riders to ensure their overall race package be in good shape at the end of 22-laps, especially on a track surface that was warmer than during the opening day of practice.
Rea and Sykes, starting 1-2 on the grid after Rea had scored his ninth career pole earlier this morning, had both shattered the previous track best record to earn their top grid placings. Tom and Jonathan had to fight for much of the race, which had a consistent leading group of 14 at one stage. As the laps counted down to the finish first Sykes, and then Rea, lead the final charge towards the flag.
Rea gave the Ninja ZX-10RR its first race win by using all his race craft on the final lap, heading off Chaz Davies by 0.042 seconds, with Tom in third place and just 1.050 seconds from the winning time.
Rea has now scored fou r wins from the last five races held at PI, with one more race still to go this weekend. For Tom, who has seldom found great fortune at this track, his podium was both a cause for celebration and a motivating factor for race two tomorrow.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team rider): “That was one of the strangest races I have ever been partly because in some places the pace was slow in the 1’33s but I was wary to always stay at the front of the group and keep out of trouble. I think the further back I ever was third but I tried not to do too much at the front. I knew when Chaz mounted a challenge at the end I needed to be really strong. Twice after lap ten I tried to go to the front and push the pace forwards but it did not really pan out. With two to go I got track position and then played it clever on the final lap. We have been working hard in the off season to find some advantages.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “Considering the two days of testing this week, and yesterday’s times, I would say we have taken a good result today. But, considering where we were, close behind the leading two, I am disappointe d not to get something extra! But that is only my third ever podium at Phillip Island, so to make a top three here, very close to the two guys who were out front, is potentially better than a win at some other circuits for me. Really I am quite happy. We had some warnings from the bike at times and we were able to adjust. In a nutshell, at this track, with hot track conditions today, a little bit of wind too – everything against what I would normally want – I was on the podium, and close to the winner. So for me this has been a very positive day and felt quite comfortable out there.”
Superbike World Championship Round 1 - Race 2:
In warm and sunny conditions the second Phillip Island race saw a small piece of history being made on two main fronts. First of all race one front row winner Rea and third placed Sykes had to start race two from the third row on their Ninja ZX-10RRs, under the new championship regulations. Sykes took over seventh grid place and Rea ninth, in another new twist to the 2017 season. Then, Rea secured his historic 40th race win at the end of the 22-laps.
Rea, able to get into the lead as early as lap six despite starting from the third row, raced for the win from then on, holding off Chaz Davies over the finish line for the second time in two days, this time by a margin of 0.025 seconds. Jonathan has now won five of the six most recent Phillip Island races, on a Kawasaki.
This latest race win gave Rea his magical 40th career victory; a level only reached and then later passed by three other riders in WorldSBK history. They are Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss and Noriyuki Haga. Rea, the 2015 and 2016 champion, also scored the Superpole win on Saturday for an almost perfect opening weekend of the new campaign on the new Ninja ZX-10RR.
Sykes, the WorldSBK champion in 2013, had more of an issue getting to the front group in race two, having to fight his way through once he had passed some slower riders and using up too much of his available tyre life in the process. He finished sixth today, 4.781 seconds from the win but having taken his second good result of the opening race weekend and third place overall in the points.
In the Manufacturers’ Standings, Kawasaki leads from Ducati 50 to 40.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “Phillip Island was really rewarding and to win two last lap battles here means a lot beCause it is a such a hard track to lead from the front on. Whilst that 40th career victory means a lot it is more important to put a good score on the board for round one.
When I went through to clean air in the lead with three or four to go I was worried that the other riders may be learning too much about the bike. I had to be sure just to change the lines up a little bit but on the last lap, from Siberia corner onwards, I just put my head down and completed a very good back section. I covered my line into the MG hairpin and got myself tucked in as well as I could on the front straight. There was not only one area where we found some pace in the winter tests; we generally just polished the bike. Nothing magic happened but I feel good about this bike. The way thi ngs have changed a little bit have suited me. I can ride less on the limit and we have more tyre left to fight with at the end of races, compared to last year.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “It was a strange race today. I got a decent start, was happy with my track position but I struggled a little bit and couldn’t turn well enough really. I could not get alongside some of the others so I ended up about ninth or tenth after a while. The guys in front of me had a little bit of a scrap and the leaders got away. After nine or ten laps I was able to bridge the gap back to them. I think I did a fairly good job really but I had to use a little bit too much rear tyre. We have left here in third position in the championship. I got a bit carried away because I wanted more than third after yesterday’s podium but if somebody offered me that position before I came here, I possibly would have taken it. I love Phillip Island, love the people, love the track but we have never had two strong races here.”
2017 Superbike World Championship Points after Round 1:
- JONATHAN REA 50 Kawasaki Racing Team
- CHAZ DAVIES 40
- TOM SYKES 26 Kawasaki Racing Team
- ALEX LOWES 26
- XAVI FORÉS 21
- LEON CAMIER 19
- MARCO MELANDRI 16
- MICHAEL VAN DER MARK 16
- EUGENE LAVERTY 14
- JORDI TORRES 9
- LORENZO SAVADORI 7
- ALEX DE ANGELIS 7
- MARKUS REITERBERGER 7
- RANDY KRUMMENACHER 6
- NICKY HAYDEN 5
- ROMÁN RAMOS 5
- JOSHUA BROOKES 4
- STEFAN BRADL 2