In the closest ever finish the class has seen, the first WorldSSP race of the year at the Yamaha Finance Australian Round brought immense levels of drama. With Roberto Rolfo (Team Factory Vamag) emerging victorious as he beat Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) by just +0.001s across the line, with Anthony West (West Racing) also on the podium.
In a shortened and restarted 10-lap race – after an earlier red flag – Rolfo held his nerve on the finish straight to edge Mahias out by the narrowest of margins over the Phillip Island finish line. It was later announced the Frenchman was handed a one second penalty following the last lap tussle, but he kept hold of his second position.
There was last lap drama as Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) and Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) had a spectacular collision at MG when both were in contention for victory, with another front runner Alex Baldolini (Race Department ATK#25) also suffering and falling back to finish 13th.
Veteran rider West took a popular third place as a wild card, with Kyle Ryde (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing) also in the top five.
Pole man PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) crossed the line sixth after a hectic afternoon for him, with the top ten completed by Aiden Wagner (GEMAR Team Lorini), Kazuki Watanabe (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven), Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Lachlan Epis (Response RE Racing).
The original race had been red flagged after a big crash for Robin Mulhauser (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) at turn 6, with Gino Rea (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) also crashing out when there were 13 laps of the scheduled 15 to go.
The restarted race over 10 laps gave Baldolini and Jacobsen a second chance, with Baldolini having crashed and Jacobsen having dropped back through the field with an apparent technical issue just before the red flag.
But it was not Jacobsen’s day as the American rider ran off track at turn 10 early in the restarted race and eventually finished five seconds back from the front group in sixth.
Davide Pizzoli (Race Department ATK#25) crashed out of the shortened rerun, with DNFs also recorded by Stefan Hill (Profile Racing), Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) and Kyle Smith (GEMAR Team Lorini)
Defending champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was absent due to a pre-season hand injury which means he will miss the opening two rounds of the 2017 championship, the Turkish rider looking to come back in style early in April at MotorLand Aragon in Round 3.
Before then the WorldSSP riders will be back in action at the second round of the season, the Motul Thai Round, over the 10th-12th March weekend.
P1. Roberto Rolfo – Team Factory Vamag
“It was fantastic to win here in Phillip Island and for the first time in Supersport, I am really happy. The work from the team was unbelievable all weekend and over the winter, I love this bike and last year I had many problems. To start the new season this way is one of the best things that can happen in my case.”
#AUSWorldSBK: WorldSSP Race
1. Roberto Rolfo (ITA) MV Agusta
2. Lucas Mahias (FRA) Yamaha +0.001
3. Anthony West (AUS) Yamaha +1.544