Marco Melandri gave Ducati a dream start to the 2018 WorldSBK season with victory in race one at Phillip Island. The Italian overcame long-time leader Tom Sykes to take his 21st career win, thus ending Jonathan Rea’s three-year unbroken streak as championship leader. The reigning champion faded to fifth after apparent rear tyre trouble.
After his record equalling pole position earlier in the day, Sykes picked up where he left off with a blistering start, a getaway only matched by Rea who stormed through from sixth on the grid to second by the Southern Loop. The polesitter initially opened up a 1.4s advantage but once the race settled into a rhythm, Rea and Melandri soon zeroed in as the leading trio broke away.
At two-thirds distance, the tension was broken by Melandri who outbraked Rea into the Honda hairpin. This signalled a dramatic drop-off in pace for the Ulsterman who was seen taking a long look at the rear tyre of his ZX-10RR shortly afterwards. Melandri had no such problems as he jumped straight across the gap to the leading Kawasaki before breezing past on the Gardner straight. As easy as that, the Italian was through into a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
Sykes would follow the no.33 home in a comfortable second, his best ever Phillip Island finish, but Rea’s problems saw him collapse into the clutches of Chaz Davies and Xavi Fores, whose fourth-place battle became a scrap for the final rostrum position. The Welshman prevailed to take third, with Fores earning race-two pole as a result of finishing fourth.
Rea held onto fifth ahead of the warring Pata Yamahas who were embroiled in a race-long battle which threatened to end in tears on several occasions. Alex Lowes emerged ahead to claim sixth, while Michael van der Mark dropped behind Leon Camier and Eugene Laverty to ninth after last-lap issues.
WorldSBK 2018: Yamaha Finance Australian Round: Race One
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