Jonathan Rea got his championship defence off to the perfect start with victory in the opening race of the 2016 season at Phillip Island. The Ulsterman withstood intense pressure from Chaz Davies and Michael van der Mark but didn’t put a wheel wrong, holding off last season’s championship runner-up by six hundredths of a second.
The close lap times in Superpole suggested that race one might see a tight battle at the front and we got exactly that with scenes more akin to a Moto3 race in the early stages as Sykes led from pole. Eight riders made up the leading group with both Ducatis, both Hondas and both Yamahas giving chase to the front-running Kawasakis.
At the start of lap eight, Sykes’ victory hopes began to fade with Rea slipstreaming through before the Ducati duo dived past at the Honda hairpin. An identical ambush by the Honda teammates relegated the polesitter to sixth on the next lap and from that point on, Sykes wouldn’t figure in the fight for victory.
Rea remained a factor though with the Aruba Ducatis leading the chase while the aggressive van der Mark explored every possible opportunity to muscle past. In the end, it came down to a straight fight between last season’s top two with Davies lunging up the inside at MG on the final lap, only to run wide and allow the canny Rea back into a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
Van der Mark saw off Davide Giugliano for the final podium position, despite the Italian setting the fastest lap right at the death, while Sykes recovered to fifth ahead of Sylvain Guintoli’s Yamaha. Leon Camier took a superb seventh for MV Agusta ahead of Jordi Torres while Nicky Hayden plummeted to ninth with tyre troubles. He did at least register some points though, unlike Alex Lowes who crashed out of seventh with six laps to go.
WorldSBK 2016: Australian Round – Race One Result
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