WSBK Press Office
After the announcement on Saturday that Race 2 of #AusWorldSBK would be a flag to flag with a maximum of 12 laps allowed on one set of tyres, the scene was set for a showdown with a difference and Sunday didn’t disappoint. After a huge fight at the front off the line, the battle incredibly resumed full force after the stop – and by the end, a three-rider battle to decide the podium order saw Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) complete the double by just hundredths of a second.
Off the line it was reigning Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) who took the holeshot, but the field remained tightly packed together in a close fight throughout the top ten. Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) was then able to get past and get away, pushing hard at the front in an impressive show of pace, but it wasn’t to be as the Irishman then crashed out of contention and left the big group to fight it out at the front.
After Laverty’s fall, Rea, Melandri, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) and Pata Yamaha WorldSBK duo Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes were locked in all-out war – and the laps were ticking down towards the mandatory time to make their pitstop.
The first three riders to pit out the lead group were Fores, Rea and van der Mark, with the trio piling into pitlane as the battle remained raging at the front. Davies, Melandri, Lowes and Camier kept it pinned as the three former leaders in pitlane waited the mandatory pit intervention time out, before next time around Davies led the four of the second wave in. Heading out pitlane as the other three blasted down the main straight, the group incredibly reformed almost exactly as it had been but with Davies ahead – and there were just nine uninterrupted laps left.
If the fight wasn’t enough drama already, there was more soon on the way as Race 1 podium finisher and perennial title contender Davies suddenly slid out the lead – having just gained a sliver of daylight between himself and the chasing pack. Rider ok but unable to rejoin, that left Independent Team rider Xavi Fores leading the way, with Rea, Sykes, Melandri, van der Mark, Lowes and Camier concertinaing and tousling for position in the tight battle behind.
As a gap began to appear and Rea appeared to have been able to pull away, the big mover was Melandri and the Italian was far from done. After his stunning Race 1 win managed to perfection, Race 2 was a different animal and the Italian sliced his way through towards the front, passing Sykes into Turn 1 and the Englishman then dropping back slightly as he got stood up. As the last lap dawned, it was Rea leading Melandri and Fores, and the stage was set.
Not quite close enough to make it work into Turn 1, Melandri kept his head down and edged closer to the Kawasaki ahead of him – not quite able to make a move at the hairpin or Lukey Heights, but tagged right onto the back of Rea. Tucking in behind the Kawasaki and catapulting himself out the final corner, the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati rider slipstreamed it to perfection before pulling out alongside Rea, incredibly just able to take it over the line with a photo finish so close, the Ducati box put the pause on their celebrations until the result was confirmed.
Fores completed the podium, with Sykes putting together another solid result at the Island – following his best ever result at the track the day before – to come home fourth. Fifth was another good haul of points for Alex Lowes, who crossed the line ahead of Camier and van der Mark.
Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) took eighth and got some points on the board after retiring from Race 1, ahead of Loris Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team) on his returning weekend and a first top ten result for rookie Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing).
Roman Ramos (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) kept his reputation for consistency going in P11, just ahead of fellow Independent Team rider Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing Verdnatura). American Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) took thirteenth after bouncing back from a crash earlier in the race, with PJ Jacobsen (TripleM Honda World Superbike Team) and Laverty, able to rejoin but two laps down, completing the fastest fifteen.
So after opening the season with a double, that makes Melandri the first key Championship leader of the year, but Rea’s 20 points for second in Race 2 were a good bounce back following late issues in Race 1 and a fifth at the flag. Sykes is second in the title fight as it stands, however – and next up it’s all change at Chang International Circuit in Buriram.
P1 – Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
“It was a really crazy race, a lot of riders could be fast for ten laps and changing the tyre meant we were all together even in the second half of the race. It was difficult to make a plan for the last lap, but luckily with three of four laps to go I found my speed and rhythm. I knew it was so difficult to pass Jonny, especially in braking, because I wasn’t as aggressive as yesterday. But when I tried to pass him on the straight…I thought he would try and answer me back but not so strong, his braking was amazing into Turn 1 then he was very smart in Turn 2. So I started to plan for the last turn because I knew I was coming out of there fast, my Panigale was working great and we have good speed. I just want to say thanks to my team and everybody.”
P2 – Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team)
“I’m really happy, especially with the way I’ve been feeling this week. I’ve been sick since Wednesday so to finish second today after what happened yesterday, I’m really happy. The bike was a step better so I want to thank all my crew. With our exit into the straight I knew the only chance I had to win today was to lead onto the straight…but I’m happy to at least make it exciting for the fans out there, they’ve been incredible and every year when I come here I get so much support from Australia so thank you very much. I’m looking forward to moving onto Thailand now, improving myself, getting healthy and getting a good feeling with the bike.”
P3 – Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team)
“It was an amazing race for me, especially when I changed tyres I was able to do a good restart. It was a tricky moment when I decided stop on the first lap I was able to…so after that, I was pushing so hard to lead as much as I did. At the end I made a small mistake in T4, Jonny and Marco overtook me and I wasn’t able to recover that position. But anyway, it’s a very good result for us and to start the championship in this way is more than positive for us – being a private, Independent Team.”
Stunning double by Melandri in Race 2 at Phillip Island; unlucky race for Davies, crashed out while in first position
After taking the opening race of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship yesterday, the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team did the double at Phillip Island (Australia) with Marco Melandri. The race itself went down to the wire and was decided by only 0.021 seconds. It’s Melandri’s 22nd win in WorldSBK, which makes him the most successful Italian in the production-based series. Chaz Davies, on the other hand, rode a strong yet unlucky race, and was forced to retire after crashing during lap 12 at turn 9 while he was in the lead.
Race 2 was characterized by a mandatory tire change, a decision taken by Race Direction for safety reasons, which prompted the riders to pit-in from lap 10 to 12. At the end of lap 11, both Davies and Melandri had a near perfect pit-stop and rejoined the race in first and second position respectively. While trying to build a gap at the front, however, the Welshman crashed out, while Melandri fought in a group of three riders at the top, making the difference down the stretch.
After one round, Melandri (50 points) and Davies (16 points) are respectively first and seventh in the championship. The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team will be back on track on March 23-25 at Buriram (Thailand) for the second round of 2018.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #33) – 1st
“It’s been a crazy race. The tire change made it impossible to come up with a strategy, as many riders could be fast for 10 laps. It was a big fight, with many aggressive maneuvers. We still tried to look after the tires after the pit-stop, and in the last five laps we found our rhythm. Towards the end, it was difficult to pass Rea under braking so I decided to focus on the final sprint and catch the slipstream out of the last corner, in which we were particularly fast, and the plan worked. I’m super happy and can’t wait to race at Buriram.”
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #7) – DNF
“Honestly, I felt great and I thought we had some margin in the first half of the race. Then, after we changed tires, I still thought we could go for the win. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever pushed so hard on a completely new tire, as we never leave the pits and go from zero to 100 percent like that, so maybe we took it just a bit too far and made a mistake even though it was quite late in the corner when I lost the front. This year there will be plenty of riders capable of fighting for the podium, like we’ve seen here, so it’ll be interesting. We’ll regroup and be ready to fight at Buriram.”
Marco Zambenedetti, Technical Coordinator on track for Ducati Corse
“We’ve worked really well to preserve the tires over the entire race distance, but we managed to be competitive also with a pit-stop. Marco once again rode an amazing race, while Chaz was unlucky because he could also have fought for the win but we’re sure he’ll bounce back soon. We’re pleased with the performance shown here in Australia, which motivates us to work even harder at home to put both Marco and Chaz in the condition to express their full potential.”
Red Bull Honda WSBK
Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team rider Leon Camier took sixth place in Race 2 of the Australian WorldSBK round as the British rider completed an impressive competitive debut on the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2.
For Race 2 Camier lined up on the second row in P4 and after a great opening lap, ran as high as second place in a lead group comprising eight riders for the first half of the race. Meanwhile Jake Gagne, starting from row four in P12 got up to speed and was in a fight for a top ten position before he had a small crash at turn 4. However, the American rider was able to re-join the race.
Following a mandatory pit stop for new tyres at the end of lap 11 – a ruling introduced for Race 2 due to some riders experiencing high tyre wear in Race 1 – Camier and Gagne resumed their push up the field and both riders were able to make up places in the second half of the race.
Camier was especially impressive as he made some bold passing moves to move into P5 towards the end of the 22-lap race, and fighting until the end he crossed the finish line in sixth place, just 2.745 seconds behind the race winner. Gagne recovered from his earlier spill to come home in P13 and wrap up a double-points finish on his first ever race weekend at Phillip Island.
With round 1 completed, Camier is sixth in the WorldSBK championship standings on 19 points, while Gagne is fifteenth overall with 7 points. The Red Bull World Superbike Team will next be in action at round 2 of the WorldSBK season at Chang International Circuit in Thailand from March 23-25.
Leon Camier 2
I gave as much as I could in Race 2, we were really strong in some areas and in other areas not so much but overall I felt very competitive. I could stick with the leading group before and after the pit stop and made some really good passes from a long way back. I had some good battles with Lowes and Sykes and between the two races this weekend I’m really happy with my first race weekend with the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team. Now I just want to keep making progress and see what we can do at the next round in Thailand.
– Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
Jake Gagne 45
It was a bittersweet weekend for me; I made a lot of progress on the bike, but the crash today meant I couldn’t get the result me and the Fireblade were capable of. In warm up I was in the top ten and in Race 2 I felt even better, but I got caught up with some other riders and when trying to make a pass at turn four had the door closed on me and crashed. It was a real shame but at least I could recover to finish the race and score some points. Overall, I’ve improved my pace a lot over the weekend and got points in both races so its something to build on. I wish we were going to Thailand tomorrow!
– Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
It was a very exciting race today and Leon showed what the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 was capable of, running in second place in the early stages. Leon managed to stay in the lead pack for the whole race, but unfortunately for us the pit stop was almost too good as we got Leon away very quickly which meant he couldn’t exit pit lane as fast as the other riders. This cost him a bit of time on his out lap however his pace was good enough that he could catch the lead group again and a P6 finish just two seconds from the race winner was a very good way to end the weekend. Jake also found more pace than he had yesterday but he also had some bad luck with a small crash when trying to pass some slower riders. However he managed to recover and score points again and I know there’s more in the bag for Jake as we get to the next races. Looking over the whole weekend I am pleased with our season start and I’d like to say thanks to all the team, the guys back at the workshop, our partners, sponsors and Honda Europe for all their support so far and now we look ahead to Thailand where we’ll push even harder for some good results.