Jonathan Rea began his search for a third consecutive World Superbike crown with victory in a thrilling season opener at Phillip Island. The Ulsterman held off perennial rivals Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes after a race-long scrap while Alex Lowes secured fourth, and pole position for race two, after a sensational ride aboard the PATA Yamaha.
After qualifying on the front row earlier in the day, Marco Melandri had high hopes for his return to WorldSBK and the Italian led early on, aided by a pair of disastrous starts from the factory Kawasakis. The no.33 faded back into a leading group which appeared to be growing in size by the lap and Lowes emerged as the shock frontrunner on lap eleven after powering past the Kawasakis.
With Melandri dropping out following a crash at the Southern Loop on lap fifteen, Davies was left to go it alone for Aruba Ducati but Sykes appeared to have made the decisive break as Rea became embroiled in a scrap with Lowes and the Welshman, opening up a six-tenth advantage with four to go.
The chase group had finally settled down though, allowing Rea and Davies to close back in and the pair soon shuffled Sykes back down to third, overtaking the Yorkshireman in successive corners. This left last year’s two most prolific winners to dispute the first victory of 2017 and despite a lunge from Davies into turn one, Rea held on around the final lap to win by four hundredths of a second.
Sykes saw off a fast-finishing Lowes for the final rostrum spot with Leon Camier and Xavi Fores riding magnificent races to fifth and sixth, ensuring they will join the Yamaha on tomorrow’s front row. Jordi Torres finished seventh ahead of Eugene Laverty and Michael van der Mark while Randy Krummenacher marked his WorldSBK debut with tenth.
WorldSBK 2017: Yamaha Finance Australian Round – Race One Result
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