These just in from the Island of Phillip:
WSBK Press office
Phillip Island Day Two
Rea triumphs as tactics prevail
Champion wins opening thriller with Lowes set to take pole in Race 2
Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit was the backdrop for a stunning first race of the 2017 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, as Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) took a superb win, to start the season in style. Rea beat Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) by just 0.042s across the line as the pair battled hard to the last corner, with Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) also on the podium.
An enthralling race was the perfect way to start the 30th season of the WorldSBK championship, with Rea, Davies, Sykes, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) all taking turns in the lead.
Lowes briefly led mid-race and would eventually finish fourth, crossing the line just over a second behind Rea and just 0.032s behind Sykes.
Melandri made a spectacular return to the championship in his first WorldSBK race since 2014, taking the lead off the line and running at the front for several laps only for his day to end in frustration after a crash at the Southern Loop with 8 laps to go.
An excellent showing from Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) saw the Englishman cross the line three seconds behind race winner Rea to complete an all British top five.
A solid start to the season by Spaniards Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) and Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) saw them take sixth and seventh respectively.
Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia), Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Randy Krummenacher (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) completed the top ten, with Krummenacher producing an impressive ride on his WorldSBK debut.
Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) and Markus Reiterberger (Althea BMW Racing Team) were 11th and 12th respectively, whilst debutant Stefan Bradl (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) was 15th. Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) crashed at Turn 6 with 17 laps to go, dashing the hopes of the Italian of a good point-scoring start to the year.
With the new grid format introduced for 2017, we will see Alex Lowes start from pole position whilst Jonathan Rea will be battling from ninth. Race 2 at 3pm local time (+11 GMT) on Sunday at the Yamaha Finance Australian Round will see Rea looking to make it a double victory weekend, but his rivals will be pushing him hard at every turn.
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team):
“To start the season with 25 points is exactly what I needed to do, especially after the end of last season played out and hopefully we can work step by step. It was a strange race, it should have been much faster. But we did what we had to do in the end to get 25 points.”
2. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati):
“It was important to get this first race out the way and get some good points on the board. I tried a bit of a different strategy and it didn’t quite work out for the win. In the end I knew it was going to come down to myself and Jonny; but with this being one of our tougher tracks it’s hard to get the strategy right. We’ll have a little think for tonight and see if we can go one better tomorrow.”
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team):
“I have to say to finish on the podium, not far behind those two in Phillip Island is a big positive for me. That’s only the third podium I’ve had in this circuit, so it gives me a lot of confidence going forward. I had a couple of warnings very early on and I was able to settle down, but ultimately I did an acceptable race. A podium at Phillip Island is my first target and I hope we can improve on it tomorrow.”
First points for Hayden and Bradl in opening race of the season at Phillip Island
Phillip Island, Australia
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team has contested the opening race of the 2017 FIM Superbike World Championship today at Phillip Island, with Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl finishing eleventh and fifteenth respectively.
Hayden launched from eleventh place on the grid and was immediately eighth on board his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 machine as the World Superbike field entered turn one. The 35-year-old from Owensboro, Kentucky, kept himself in the fight for eighth place until the final three laps when, after losing a bit of ground, he returned eleventh at the flag.
Bradl gained three positions at the start and for the first half of the encounter he did his best to maintain the pace of the riders ahead. The 27-year-old German rider managed to remain within the top 15 and to score his first World Superbike point.
The second race of the Australian round will take place tomorrow at 15:00hrs local time, after the traditional 15-minute warm up session that will get underway at 11:25. The new rules concerning the grid for race two will be applied for the first time tomorrow, with Hayden and Bradl starting the encounter from twelfth and fifteenth positions, respectively.
Nicky Hayden 69
We made some important changes to the setup today in order to be as ready as possible for the race. I got a really good start and I was able to stay with the group for a while and learn as much as possible. There were a few parts of the track where I was able to be really quick, but as the race progressed I got passed several times on the main straight and it was hard to take the position back. Surely we would have like to be closer to the front, it’s surely a lot more fun there but there’s another race tomorrow, so we’ll see what we can do.
– Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
Stefan Bradl 6
My first World Superbike race has not been an easy one. We were strong on the brakes and that’s a positive, but if there is one point we need to work on ahead of race two is the connection between the throttle and the behaviour of the rear tyre, which was spinning a lot. I could feel the tyre in the opening laps, but as the laps went by the situation got a bit more problematic. We improved compared to testing but something is still clearly not right, so we have to work on it and come up with some ideas ahead of race two.
– Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
Both riders got a great start to the race and were able to make up some places and for a good number of laps their pace was not so bad. For half of the race the first twelve riders were within 2.8s and until the final stages, Nicky managed to stay with in mix for eighth place. Stefan had more of a difficult time, but in any case we got some important data and we will work hard to be ready for race two tomorrow. We have few ideas in mind and hopefully we can make good use of the warm up to see if we can move forwards.
Chaz Davies is second in the 2017 WorldSBK season opener at Phillip Island, Marco Melandri forced to retire
The 2017 WorldSBK season opener at Phillip Island (Australia) yielded bittersweet results for the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team. Chaz Davies rode a tactical race and finished in second position, only 0.042 seconds behind Jonathan Rea. Marco Melandri, on the other hand, was forced to retire with seven laps to go after going off the track while battling against an opponent.
In fourth and third position on the grid respectively after Superpole, Davies and Melandri took the lead thanks to a blistering start and then constantly fought in the leading group. As it often happened in the past, the Australian track led to a hard-fought, exciting race, with seven riders at the top and narrow gaps. The battle, however, penalized Melandri, who was forced off track at turn 2 after disputing the same line with another rider. Conversely, Davies was able to play defense and wait until the final laps to attack, missing the victory by only 0.042 seconds.
The Aruba.it Racing – Ducati team will resume action tomorrow at 11:25 local time (01:25 CET) for WUP. Race 2 is scheduled to start at 15:00 (05:00 CET). Due to the new grid regulations for Race Two, Davies and Melandri will start in 8th and 10th position respectively.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #7) – 2nd
“We’ve made a good step forward for the long distance today, but the race itself was a bit of waiting game, as always here in Phillip Island. We had to look after the tyres, playing cat and mouse, and it was a good show. I tried not to get caught too much in the battle and basically reacted to what was going on around me. We almost won, but we still lacked something on the straight. I could pass, but only after the finish line, so we’ll have to try something else. Anyway, we adopted a different strategy compared with the past, a bit safer, to not give away points. That’s the key at this point of the season, because more favorable tracks for us will come soon enough. But, I can’t wait to have another go at it tomorrow.”
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #33) – DNF
“Since the race was pretty slow-paced and crowded at the top, I wanted to take my time and save the tyres to try and pull away with Rea and Davies towards the end. I passed Lowes at turn 1 and went a bit wide, but he changed direction earlier than usual at turn 2, cutting in front of me. I lost the front for a moment and had to pick the bike up, going off the track. I knew a group battle would be a weak spot for us, given my long absence from the races. Today, however, it was really busy out there, and sometimes the races end like this. I’m disappointed, but also confident and eager to bounce back, given our potential. I learned many things today, and tomorrow it’ll be a different game, even though I’ll start from fourth row.”
Ernesto Marinelli, Superbike Project Director
“For sure it was a strange race, because all the top riders were worried about tyre wear and played defense, keeping the gaps really narrow. In these conditions, the final results are always unpredictable. On the one hand, we’re happy because Chaz fought for the win until the very last meter, but we’re also a bit displeased because Marco could have done the same but a contact took him out before the last laps. Both have shown to have the potential to win, but we want to keep working and give them something extra ahead of Race 2.”
Lowes and Yamaha fight for the win in Phillip Island Race One Thriller
In a thrilling first FIM Superbike World Championship race at Phillip Island in Australia, Alex Lowes secured a spirited fourth place and his new team-mate Michael van der Mark ninth, earning good points and setting themselves up well for the second race of the weekend on Sunday 26th.
After qualifying fifth on the grid in Superpole in a time better than the circuits previous outright fastest lap – Alex Lowes used his 2017 Yamaha YZF-R1 to good effect in race one, fighting in the leading group throughout and crossing the line in a photo-finish for third place, only three-hundreths of a second from former World Champion Tom Sykes.
More impressively, Lowes was also only 1.082 seconds from the winner after 22-laps of sometimes close and furious action, leading the whole field on lap 11 as he tried to up the pace and break up what was a combative leading group of riders. Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team rider Michael van der Mark scored ninth place in his first WorldSBK race on the YZF-R1, and was a respectably close 12 seconds from the win itself, after starting from tenth on the grid. He had to qualify out of Superpole 1 and into Superpole 2 earlier in the day, but did so in professional style.
Van der Mark also battled in a group of riders for the whole race, missing out on 8th place by only 0.05 of a second, and the experience gained about his new machine during his first race on the YZF-R1 will be used to find improvements for tomorrows Race Two.
Under the new championship rules, Lowes fourth place puts him on pole for Sundays 22-lap contest, a position he hopes to exploit to the full in the early laps. Michael will be sixth off the grid on Sunday because of his top nine finishing position today. Todays podium riders will now start race two from the third row, again because of the new regulations.
Paul Denning – Team Principal
Both for us at Pata Yamaha and for the World Superbike Championship as a whole, today was an exciting way to start the season! We have been so impressed by Alexs approach to the winter tests and to this first race event, and today showed the result of very serious preparation and a lot of hard work. As a rider, Alex has made a big step forward and this has allowed him to use the improvements in the bike, the team and the technical support structure. Lets see what we can do tomorrow from pole position! Whatever the result, the target is to maximise the potential of the package and keep building forward, and today has been a great start to that process.
Michael made a brilliant start, rode aggressively and fought hard for every single lap of the race. The Championship has huge strength in depth this year and this was shown today, if you are a small percentage away from the optimum it will be tough to finish at the front. Michaels adaptation to the Yamaha package continues, and this 22 laps will be very valuable experience we will try to help him to take a step forward for tomorrows race and we know that very soon we will see him fighting at the front.
Michael van der Mark
In Superpole 1 we made a big step forward with the bike and the lap times came quite easy. We made good progress and in Superpole 2 it was the first time, really, with a qualifying tyre for me on this bike. The lap was not perfect but I was happy to be in Superpole 2. The race was quite good and in the beginning I was with the front guys but I felt that I struggled with drive. I wanted to be smooth to save the tyre but there was not enough drive from the rear, which is why I struggled to stay with them. I had a couple of nice fights with the other guys but I was just not comfortable enough to do the same as the guys in front. Tomorrow I hope we can find a solution to find more drive. Now I have had a real race on the bike I can see the real issues, and what the real strong points of the other riders are. I hope we can close up to them tomorrow, I will be giving 100%!
I felt quite comfortable today and the race simulations that I have done allowed me to relax a bit more in the race itself. I had been on a decent pace in the race runs and knew what to expect from the tyres and the bike. I managed to keep my speed to the end and I was a bit surprised that they were messing around a bit at the front! At one stage there were too many guys in the front group and everyone was a bit close – I did not feel very comfortable with that so I tried to push on a bit and stretch it out. It worked out quite well for me. The lads in the team and all at Yamaha have done a great job with the bike. Unfortunately I made a bit of mistake near the end and it dropped me back from the first three, I was able to pull them back in the last three laps but fourth place is still good. It is easy after the race to say that I could have done a bit better but my goal was top five in the races here, and then build during the year to close the gap. But we were in the race for the podium, and I just enjoyed being able to fight with the guys.