Aruba Ducati’s Chaz Davies began his hunt for the 2017 WorldSBK title in best possible way at Phillip Island, topping the free practice one timesheets by less than a tenth of a second from reigning champion Jonathan Rea with Xavi Fores in third place.
Davies clocked a 1’30.189 lap with eight minutes left to run and the Kawasaki man had no answer. His best of 1’30.255 had come on the half-hour and is easily quicker than he managed in testing earlier this week, as was the Welshman’s. Fores put in a 1’30.486 to bag third but was challenged by both Tom Sykes on the second Kawasaki and Davies’ team-mate Marco Melandri.
Rea took an early lead, banging in a 1’30.811 on only his first flying lap but Davies was on the case straightaway with a 1’30.757 the next time around while Melandri and Sykes were not shy either, swapping third place early doors..
Fores claimed top spot with a 1’30.678 on his third lap and then Rea came back into second before the red flags came out for oil. After a short halt, it was Rea back in charge, setting a 1’30.519 which he then cut to a 1’30.405 with half an hour left.
Davies was having none of it, however, and hit back with a 1’30.495 to close the gap and then Rea had another answer and it was his best lap of the session. It waan’t good enough, though, as Davies drooped his time to a 1’30.478 and then shot into the lead which was never topped.
Fores held off charges from both Sykes and Melandri, but those two were also under attack from Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes, who did grab fourth place briefly with a 1’30.911 but he slipped back to sixth place. Nicky Hayden spent much of the session at the wrong end of the timing screen but stuck in a screen-biter to nail seventh with only a couple of minutes left.
Markus Reiterberger won the battle of the BMWs in eighth but only by fractions from Althea team-mate Jordi Torres in ninth. Michael Van Der Mark, on the second works R1, completed the top ten and is 1.162 off the pace.
Leon Camier held a top-six position for a majority of the session but only completed four laps so his 1’31.405 ended up good enough for 11th, one place ahead of rookie Randy Krummenacher on the Puccett Kawasaki. The Milwaukee Aprilias are locked together in 13th and 14th while Honda’s Stefan Bradl suffered a crash at, er, Honda corner and ended in 15th.
Yamaha wildcard Josh Brookes, who is giving away more than 20km/h on the long straight, finished in 16th place.
Top ten speeds
1 1 J. REA Kawasaki ZX-10R 315,8
2 7 C. DAVIES Ducati Panigale R 314,9
3 50 E. LAVERTY Aprilia RSV4 RF 312,1
4 66 T. SYKES Kawasaki ZX-10R 312,1
5 33 M. MELANDRI Ducati Panigale R 311,2
6 60 M. VAN DER MARK Yamaha YZF R1 310,3
7 12 X. FORÉS Ducati Panigale R 310,3
8 81 J. TORRES BMW S 1000 RR 310,3
9 21 M. REITERBERGER BMW S 1000 RR 309,5
10 32 L. SAVADORI Aprilia RSV4 RF 307,7