Following Alvaro Bautista’s (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) demolition of the field by nearly fifteen seconds in his and the new Ducati Panigale V4 R’s first Superbike World Championship race in Phillip Island on Saturday, there was much interest in what the field could do in response for WorldSBK’s first ever Superpole race.
Ten laps at Phillip Island was always going to lead to an exciting race, it was just a matter of whether it would be an exciting race at the front, or an exciting race for second.
Having made the holeshot for the second time this weekend, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was in the perfect position to be able to try to take the fight to Bautista in the Superpole race, and he did just that. Rea knew that if he allowed Bautista to lead, the race would be much more difficult for him, and so did everything to disrupt the Spaniard’s rhythm, riding with an aggression we perhaps haven’t seen from the four-times World Champion since his Honda days.
For five laps it worked, and Rea seemed to be able to contain Bautista, but with five to go the race one winner pulled the proverbial pin. Rea was able to go with the #19, but unable to get close enough to make a pass, and ultimately was unable to prevent a second win of the weekend for Bautista.
Leon Haslam finished third, four seconds back of the lead battle. After the disappointment of his fall in race one which deprived him of a return to the WorldSBK podium on his comeback to the championship, a trip to parc ferme was much welcomed for the 2018 BSB champion, and he will be targeting more of the same in race three.
Behind Haslam raged a Yamaha civil war, with all four full factory YZF-R1 riders fighting for fourth place. It was Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) who came out on top, 0.087 seconds clear of his teammate Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK). A further 1.1 seconds back was Marco Melandri who recovered from an early excursion with Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) in turn one to beat his GRT Yamaha WorldSBK teammate and 2018 World Supersport Champion, Sandro Cortese who continued to impress after finishing in the top ten on his WorldSBK debut in Saturday’s race one.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Barni Racing Ducati) was the second Panigale V4 R over the line in eighth place, which is impressive considering how lost he seemed at the end of the test on Tuesday.
1.5 seconds further back of Rinaldi was Eugene Laverty (Team GoEleven) who, with presumably the correct tyre pressure for this race, took ninth place and the final Superpole spot for the grid of the third race of the weekend.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is still suffering with the front feeling on the Panigale V4 R, and at such a high speed track, any missing confidence – especially with the front end – is highlighted. He finished the sprint race tenth, and the last of the Ducatis, fourteen seconds behind his teammate.
Unlike Melandri, Tom Sykes was unable to recover from running wide in turn one early on in the race and finished eleventh, 2.2 seconds clear of BMW Motorrad World SBK teammate Markus Reiterberger in twelfth. Behind the German was the Moriwaki Althea Honda duo of Leon Camier (13th) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (14th) who were split by four seconds.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) was caught up in an incident with Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) on the final lap, where Mercado made contact with the Turkish rider, who then collected Torres. All three went down, but Razgatlioglu got back on to finish fifteenth, and Torres remounted for seventeenth.
Between them was the wildcard Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda Racing) in sixteenth.
Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) was the first retirement, joined on the side lines only by Mercado on the final lap.