Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 8th March 2017

Jonathan Rea made the perfect start to his world superbike title defence, taking his total career wins to 40 with victory in both races of the opening round of the 2017 season.

 

The Kawasaki rider certainly didn’t have things his own way in a pair of thrilling races that were only decided on the last lap, with the Ulsterman crossing the line less than a tenth of a second ahead of main title rival Chaz Davies each time.

 

Saturday’s opening race saw British riders occupy the top five places, with Rea’s team-mate Tom Sykes taking the final podium, ahead of Yamaha rider Alex Lowes and the impressive MV Agusta of Leon Camier.

 

Australian Grand Prix

 

Sunday saw the introduction of the controversial new reverse system which saw Lowes starting from pole, with Rea handicapped to ninth. With the top three having to fight their way through the pack it was Lowes and the Ducati of Spanish rider Xavi Fores who made the early running.

 

Rea made it to the front by lap six, bringing with him factory Ducati riders Davies and Marco Melandri, the latter coming from 10th on the grid after failing to finish Saturday’s opening race. While Saturday’s race had been someone cautious as the riders opted to conserve their tyres on the abrasive Phillip Island circuit, the addition of Melandri in the mix changed the dynamic of the race. The veteran Italian, returning after a year’s sabbatical, immediately pushed the pace but was unable to make a break.

 

The five way battle for the lead was to prove another thriller but Rea passed Davies to take the lead going into the final lap and although the Ducati rider was able to stick in his rival’s slipstream, he was unable to make a move. Melandri returned to the podium in third, with Lowes taking a second fourth place of the weekend.

 

Speaking after the race, Rea said: “Phillip Island was really rewarding and to win two last lap battles here means a lot because it is a such a hard track to lead from the front on. While that 40th career victory means a lot it is more important to put a good score on the board for round one.

 

“When I went through to clean air in the lead with three or four to go I was worried that the other riders may be learning too much about the bike. I had to be sure just to change the lines up a little bit but on the last lap, from Siberia corner onwards, I just put my head down and completed a very good back section. I covered my line into the MG hairpin and got myself tucked in as well as I could on the front straight.

 

“There was not only one area where we found some pace in the winter tests; we generally just polished the bike. Nothing magic happened but I feel good about this bike. The way things have changed a little bit have suited me. I can ride less on the limit and we have more tyre left to fight with at the end of races, compared to last year.”

 

If Jonathan’s win in the superbike races were close, it was nothing compared to the world supersport outing. In a 10 lap race (shortened from 18 due to a crash that saw the original running red flagged) veteran Italian Roberto Rolfo took his first win in the class by just 0.001 of a second from Frenchman Lucas Mahias. In a thrilling race it was another veteran, Australian Anthony West, who completed the podium despite qualifying in 21st position.

 

The next round of the Superbike World Championship takes place at Thailand’s Change circuit in two weeks’ time.

 

2017 Superbike World Championship – Phillip Island, Australia

 

Race one result

  1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki)

  2. Chaz Davies (Ducati)

  3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)

 

Race two result

  1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki)

  2. Chaz Davies (Ducati)

  3. Marco Melandri (Ducati)

 

Championship standings

1. Jonathan Rea 50 points

2. Chaz Davies40

3= Tom Sykes26

3= Alex Lowes26