Race one of the new WSBK season was an absolute cracker. Rea, Sykes, Davies, Melandri and Lowes all lead the race, exchanging places with Fores and Camier in the mix too. However, the Northern Irishman held the lead by 0.042 to beat Chaz Davies’ slipstreaming efforts on the run to the chequered flag. Tom Sykes managed to hold Yamaha’s Alex Lowes for the final position on the podium, with MV Agusta’s Leon Camier holding on to take his best result at Phillip Island with 5th, ahead of the Barni Racing Ducati of Xavi Fores.
The race got underway and the Kawasaki were swallowed up by turn one and it was returning Marco Melandri who hit the lead, with Davies in 2nd. The Kawasaki pairing fought back, placing 3rd and 4th.
Eugene Laverty made a fairly rapid start, from 13th to 8th, whilst Althea BMW’s Markus Reiterberger went the other way, ending the first lap in 15th.
Slipstream city down the Gardner Straight led to an all-out brawl at the front, with both Ducatis, Kawasakis, Yamahas, Fores’ Ducati and the BMW of Torres were all in the leading group, swapping places at every possible opportunity.
Lorenzo Savadori was the first casualty, having got into 7th, he watched the front group start to escape. As the Italian set off on closing down the gap between the lead 12-wheeler and the Milwaukee Aprilia, he crashed at Siberia but was OK apart from a damaged pride.
The race progressed and early race leader Marco Melandri was down in 4th but remained in the leading group, however it was Alex Lowes who hit the front. The 2013 British Superbike Champion was leading the way, the first time for Yamaha at the front of a WSBK race for 6 seasons.
Rea and Sykes regrouped, with Davies, Lowes, Melandri and Fores keeping them in their sites. Unfortunately for Melandri, his race came to an end as he tagged the back of Lowes at the Southern Loop, crashing out on his return to competition on lap 15. He will start 19th for race two.
The final 5 laps saw the remaining 5 spread out, with Rea and Davies going head to head in dramatic fashion. Davies took Rea at Doohan’s on the final lap but ran wide, allowing arch rival Rea to take the lead back instantly. That was how they finished, as although the Ducati of Davies had a slipstream chance with Rea down the straight on the run for home, the Ulsterman beat him, with Sykes taking the bronze medal position 1 second back.
Alex Lowes took his best finish since his 3rd place in Thailand back in 2015, with a 4th place ahead of the revelation of Leon Camier, who saw off Xavi Fores’ privateer Ducati outfit.
Fellow Spaniard Jordi Torres was 7th, ahead of qualifying crasher Eugene Laverty, the sole surviving Milwaukee Aprilia. Yamaha’s new signing, Michael Van Der Mark was a solid 9th in his first outing on the R1, with Randy Krummenacher storming to 10th place on his and the Pucetti Kawasaki’s WSBK premier class debut.
The rest of the points were sorted out, with former GP champion Nicky Hayden in 11th, ahead of Markus Reiterberger, Roman Ramos Alex de Angelis and former Moto2 Champion, Stefan Bradl on his debut. Russo, Jezek and Badovini rounded out the field, not gaining any championship points.
The only other rider not mentioned is Josh Brookes, who retired his privately entered Yamaha with a technical problem, whilst Leandro Mercado wasn’t racing his Ioda Aprilia through injuries sustained in a testing accident.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko