The season-opening Yamaha Finance Australian Round at Phillip Island saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) wrap up a double victory from ninth position, in a superb Sunday race. Starting from a re-shuffled grid, Aruba.it Racing – Ducati pair Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri were also on the podium.
A stunning last lap battle between four riders for podium positions saw Rea come out on top again, with Davies a close second (+0.025s), whilst Melandri rode excellently for third (+0.249s) and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) collected more good points in fourth having led the race early on.
Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) finished fifth, whilst Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) ended up at the back of a group of six riders who had been battling for the podium positions.
Behind that front group, it was Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) who crossed the line in seventh and eighth respectively for a good haul of points, whilst Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) and Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) also registered top ten results.
After his solid fourth in Race 1 on Saturday Lowes made an excellent start from the head of the reshuffled Race 2 grid to lead the way in the opening stages, with Laverty and Fores also getting in the mix early on. Rea soon came through from ninth though, making light work of the challenge of the new regulations for 2017 which sees the grid reshuffled on Sunday further to the Race 1 results.
Rea took over in the lead with 17 laps to go, as Davies also soon came through to contest the lead, with Lowes fighting to stay with the Welshman and Rea for a podium result.
Melandri emerged as a contender in the second half of the race, having steadily fought his way to the front from tenth on the grid after his WorldSBK comeback on Saturday ended in a disappointing DNF. The Italian was delighted to return to the podium at the end of Race 2 as he kept Rea and Davies in his sights.
A technical issue saw Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) pull off track and out of contention in the Warm Up lap. Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) crashed with 14 laps to go, with additional crashes for Riccardo Russo (Guandalini Racing) and Ayrton Badovini (Grillini Racing Team).
The WorldSBK riders will be back in action at the second round of the season, the Motul Thai Round, over the 10th-12th March weekend.
P1 . Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki Racing Team
“I’m so happy because to win a last lap battle here is hard, but to do it two times here and with tactical racing, it’s so hard. I just wanted to come here and start on my way, before yesterday I hadn’t won before the summer break in 2016 so it’s nice to start my campaign and with 50 points and two wins.”
P2. Chaz Davies – Aruba.it Racing – Ducati
“It was tight in both races and this one was even closer I reckon. Everybody had a little go at taking the lead and tried to break away at the front, but its near-on impossible here at Phillip Island so I just ran my own race. I tried to break away with a couple of laps to go but it wasn’t going to happen. We gave away a lot of points here last year, so to take 40 points at what is not one of our favourite tracks is good and look forward to the next one.”
P3. Marco Melandri – Aruba.it Racing – Ducati
“It’s been a very good weekend, race one was difficult race two was even more difficult because I came from the back, which meant I was pushing the tyre a bit too much. In the last few laps I didn’t have enough grip to try and fight for a win, but those two guys were a bit stronger than me today. To be back on the podium in my first Round after a year and a half off is good.”
#AUSWorldSBK at Phillip Island: Race 2
1. Jonathan Rea Kawasaki
2. Chaz Davies Ducati +0.025
3. Marco Melandri Ducati +0.249