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Andrea Iannone in ‘shock, full of emotion’ as he leads, podiums in first race for 53 months

Andrea Iannone says he is ‘living the dream’ after converting a surprise front row in a landmark podium on his debut in the WorldSBK Championship at Phillip Island, almost four-and-a-half years on from his last competitive outing.

The Italian, who returns to action in 2024 after serving a maximum four year suspension for doping offences, hit the ground sprinting on Saturday having hinted at something special during pre-season testing and Friday’s practice.

Running pole sitter Nicolo Bulega closest with second on the grid, far from letting the pressure of the big stage get to him when the lights went green, Iannone thrived to get the launch of the line and secure the hole-shot.


Though briefly shuffled down to second by Alex Lowes, the Team Go Eleven Ducati rider was back in front on lap two to maintain a lead he’d hold through to lap seven when he was overtaken by eventual race winner Bulega.

Though Iannone’s lack of experience on WorldSBK machinery betrayed him at times, in particular just after the pit-stop when he lost a fistful of time getting the tyres up to temperature and making a mistake under braking while chasing Andrea Locatelli, he vied with Bulega and Locatelli for fastest laps and regularly came back at rivals when he was passed.

It’d take him all the way to an outstanding third at the finish, making him one of the few riders in WorldSBK history - along with Bulega - to score a podium on their WorldSBK debut.

Thrilled with the result, for Iannone - nicknamed both ‘Crazy Joe’ and ‘The Maniac’ for some of his more aggressive styles of riding from the grand prix paddock - was overwhelmed by the level of support he has received from fans after such a long time out.

“It’s incredible for me; I didn’t expect this comeback and I’m living the dream. When you have a feeling with the bike it’s important but for me, it’s fantastic to be at this level. I saw a lot of support from other people and this is more important than the level that I’m at now. 

“It’s pure energy for me after all these years. The race was much better and when I was leading, I was full of emotions and it was a little bit ‘wow, a shock!’. 

“I made a mistake twice but we’re not at 100% with the engine braking. For the start, it’s OK! 

“Tomorrow is a different day so we’ll try to improve but without any stress. It’s important that we smile right now and enjoy this.”

In addition to Iannone’s own personal achievements, the result also marks a first podium for Team Go Eleven since 2021.

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