Jonathan Rea bagged his 40th WorldSBK win in the second Phillip Island race today after another titanic encounter with title rival Chaz Davies finishing only 0.026s behind the reigning champion after 22 laps of frantic action.
Both Rea and Davies had to come through from the third row under the new rules but as predicted, the cream rose to the top and the Irishman leaves Australia with 50 points and Davies takes 40 away while Marco Melandri pinched the final podium spot after also having his share of time at the front with Britain’s Alex Lowes again fourth.
“Phillip Island was really rewarding and to win two last lap battles here means a lot because it is a such a hard track to lead from the front on. Whilst that 40th career victory means a lot it is more important to put a good score on the board for round one,” said Rea.
“When I went through to clean air in the lead with three or four to go I was worried that the other riders may be learning too much about the bike. I had to be sure just to change the lines up a little bit but on the last lap, from Siberia corner onwards, I just put my head down and completed a very good back section. I covered my line into the MG hairpin and got myself tucked in as well as I could on the front straight.
“There was not only one area where we found some pace in the winter tests; we generally just polished the bike. Nothing magic happened but I feel good about this bike. The way things have changed a little bit have suited me. I can ride less on the limit and we have more tyre left to fight with at the end of races, compared to last year.”
After his performance yesterday, Lowes was on pole for race two but it was Barni Ducati’s Xavi Fores who nipped in front as the lights went out with Milwaukee Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty third, Leon Camer’s MV Agusta fourth and Davies coming through for fifth.
Lowes snatched the lead briefly from Fores as Rea also started to make his way to the front, taking fourth from Camier as Laverty had his time at the front before he was re-passed by Lowes. Fores was not to be denied however, grabbing the lead on lap three, using the slipstream.
Rea and Davies were sniffing around the top three and it was the works Kawasaki man who made the first move into a podium spot but he was quickly followed by the Welshman as Melandri began to set fastest lap as he made his way from the middle of the grid after yesterday’s non-finish.
Rea hit the front when he passed Fores into Doohan corner on lap five while Davies was also not to be denied, grabbing second on the brakes into Honda while Melandri put in the fastest lap of the race - a 1’31.178 - to move behind Lowes.
Davies caught and passed Rea with 14 left to run, using the slipstream to pass on the Gardner Straight. A lap later, Fores and Lowes were at it while Honda’s Nicky Hayden crashed unhurt at MG. Lowes and Fores swapped places three times on lap nine but Melandri had other ideas and broke up the two with a pass on the Derby rider.
Lowes, Melandri and Fores began their scrap for the final podium place as Tom Sykes also made some moves forward, claiming sixth place from Laverty and then Camier. Melandri used all his experience to get into third and then began to hassle Davies and Rea for the lead.
With ten to go, Melandri went past Rea for top spot on the start finish but a lap later, Rea towed Davies past on the Gardner Straight however, Melandri was back past using the same move with eight laps to run. The Italian slowed into Doohan corner and Rea had to sit up a little.
Fores showed he still had pace and re-grouped to get back onto the lead three as Melandri pulled a three-tenth gap. With four to run, Rea tried a move on Melandri on the run up to Lukey Heights but couldn’t make it stick.
A pass on the Gardner Straight did stick, however, and Davies followed him through as Melandri’s rear tyre started to give up after the work it did earlier moving through the pack. Lowes went back past for the final podium spot and Fores also put a move to demote the Italian even further.
With two left, Davies went under Rea into Doohan for the lead and then Lowes also passed the champion on the brakes into Honda but that didn’t last long. On the final lap Rea used the slipstream to take back the lead and tried to drop the hammer as he hadn’t cooked his rear tyre.
Davies was able to go with him and Melandri got the better of Lowes. Davies didn’t quite have the pace to catch Rea and was denied by 0.026s. Melandri followed them across the line by quarter of a second with Lowes fourth. The Yamaha man is joint third in the title chase with Sykes, who came home in sixth place behind Fores.
Michael Van Der Mark got the better of Camier for seventh with Lorenzo Savadori the quicker of the two Milwaukee Aprilias. Team-mate Laverty was next along to complete the top ten. Alex De Angelis put the Pedercini Kawasaki in 11th place.
Josh Brookes only fired up his privateer Yamaha with five minutes to spare after changing head gaskets after morning warm-up but scrapped his way to 12th place on the BSB-spec R1 in front of his home crowd. The Australian now flies back to Europe to begin testing with the Anvil TAG Yamaha squad at Jerez next weekend.