Eugene Laverty handed Voltcom Crescent Suzuki their first World Superbike victory with a sensational comeback ride in race one at Phillip Island. The Irishman was seventh on the first lap after a nightmare start but successfully chased down the two factory Aprilias to make the dream start to his season.
Polesitter Sylvain Guintoli and teammate Marco Melandri had no problems getting off the line, outdragging Davide Giugliano’s Ducati into turn one, while Jonathan Rea rose to fourth ahead of Chaz Davies, Tom Sykes and Laverty. Eugene wasn’t the only Aprilia rider to fluff his start as Alex Lowes fell back to eleventh and despite making progress in the early laps, the BSB champion became the race’s first retirement following a highside at Siberia.
The front three distanced themselves from a feisty pack of riders squabbling over fourth, led by Rea, but once Laverty fought his way to the front of the pack, the leaders were on borrowed time. Eugene had 3.7 seconds to make up but calmly chipped away at the deficit and by half distance, third-placed Giugliano had a Suzuki for company.
The Italian may well have seen Laverty coming and instantly made a move on Melandri for second at the Honda hairpin but he couldn’t escape the no.58 for long with Laverty scything straight past the second Aprilia at Lukey Heights. With the Ducati Panigale outgunned on the straights, Giugliano was a sitting duck for the Suzuki at the start of lap fifteen, Laverty cruising around the outside into turn one, and with five laps remaining the inevitable happened as Guintoli surrendered the lead at the Southern Loop.
Having got his own back on Giugliano, Melandri set about establishing supremacy at Aprilia and with three laps to go, the Italian slipped through at the Honda hairpin. Guintoli stuck to the tail of his teammate but Melandri pipped him to the finish line by a tenth of a second. Laverty, by this point, was long gone and won by 2.9s.
Giugliano took a solid fourth for Ducati while Loris Baz surprised many by being the first Kawasaki home in fifth, edging out Jonathan Rea and defending champion Tom Sykes who wound up a disappointing seventh. Chaz Davies was eighth on the second Ducati while David Salom beat Niccolo Canepa for ninth to become the first EVO class winner in World Superbikes.