Reigning WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea emerged victorious in a titanic opening WorldSBK race at Phillip Island but he was pushed hard by Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes right from the off with Alex Lowes not only grabbing fourth but also leading and taking pole for tomorrow’s second leg.
Rea had only a 0.042s lead over Davies’ Aruba Ducati after 22 laps in Australia with Sykes pipping Lowes by 0.032s to complete the podium in a race that saw MV Agusta’s Leon Camier right in the mix despite getting only six laps over the course of Friday practice.
Davies and team-mate Marco Melandri got the holeshot and dropped into Doohan corner as the lights went out with Lowes, Rea and Sykes in close attendance but the Kawasaki men made short work of the Pata Yamaha, and Rea passed Davies for second and Sykes followed suit while the Barni Ducati of Xavi Fores also went through on Lowes. And that was just lap one.
Melandri was demoted to second by Rea in the start/finish slipstream battle on lap two and went one place further back when Sykes forced his way through into the Southern Loop, the Huddersfield man desperate not to let his team-mate get away as Fores and Lowes went back and forth for fifth.
Sykes was re-passed by Melandri for second a lap later as Milwaukee Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori made their way into the top ten. Davies got himself back into the mix, taking third from Sykes into Doohan and then nicking second at the same place a lap later as Sykes dropped into the clutches of Fores at Honda but fought straight back.
With 17 to go, Rea made an error into the Southern Loop and the Ducati duo swept through towing Sykes with them, Melandri re-took the lead as Savadori ditched the RSV-4 unhurt at Siberia. Sykes fought his way back past Davies for third into the Southern Loop but Davies returned the favour in Honda as Camier got onto the back of the leading group.
Fores had been marking time a little but pounced on a Sykes error on the exit of MG but was re-passed with 16 left to run. Josh Brookes retired with a technical problem at the same time while Lowes put a move on Fores a lap later to take fifth.
The Yamaha man got a whopping slipstream two laps later and swooped into second place behind Rea, passing the Kawasaki into Honda as the trailing pack started to trip over themselves. Lowes held the lead for two laps as Sykes made his way first past Melandri and then Lowes to take second at MG.
With nine left, Davies moved past Melandri and then Lowes for third place at Stoner corner which left the Derby rider with Melandri to contend with. The two touched into the Southern Loop on the next lap which results in the Italian going down and out of the race but unhurt.
Lowes found a way back past Davies for third as they passed the pits with seven left but the Welshman was too strong into the Southern Loop. Another big slippy with six to go saw Sykes and Davies slide past Rea, pushing the Castletown rider back to third and Sykes opened a small gap as Rea and Davies sized each other up.
Rea made his move at Honda corner but ran wide which allowed a fast-approaching Lowes to move through with Davies also seizing the opportunity. Rea was back to second with four left to run and then put in the final pass for the lead, taking Sykes into Doohan as he ran wide and Davies also came through.
The Welshman sized up Rea several times but just didn’t have the Irishman’s measure. He tried a last-ditch slipstream but was 0.042s shy at the flag. Lowes also tried the same but was outgunned by Kawasaki power as Camier finished only two seconds further back, making a British clean sweep of the top five.
Fores took sixth place as Althea BMW’s Jordi Torres, as usual, woke up at half distance and made his way through to seventh. Laverty bagged eighth on his first race back with Aprilia, just in front of Michael Van Der Mark while class rookie Randy Krummenacher completed the top ten.
Nicky Hayden was 11th on the new Fireblade while team-mate Stefan Bradl was the last of the point scorers in 15th.
Front three rows for race two:
Lowes Camier Fores
Torres Laverty Van Der Mark
Sykes Davies Rea
Top ten speeds:
1 81 J. TORRES BMW S 1000 RR 319,5
2 7 C. DAVIES Ducati Panigale R 317,6
3 2 L. CAMIER MV Agusta 1000 F4 317,6
4 88 R. KRUMMENACHER Kawasaki ZX-10R 317,6
5 50 E. LAVERTY Aprilia RSV4 RF 316,7
6 60 M. VAN DER MARK Yamaha YZF R1 315,8
7 33 M. MELANDRI Ducati Panigale R 314,9
8 1 J. REA Kawasaki ZX-10R 314,0
9 22 A. LOWES Yamaha YZF R1 314,0
10 69 N. HAYDEN Honda CBR1000RR 314,0