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WorldSBK Phillip Island: Whitham reviews Ducati domination…

Not for the first time is it being said that what happens at Philip Island is not an accurate guide for the rest of the season and while Alvaro Bautista must be a clear favourite to retain his title, the other two members of the ‘Titanic Trio’, Messrs Rea and Razgatlioglu have a fight on their hands.

A week ago James Whitham alongside many others exuded confidence when being asked to forecast the favourites for the title. And it was those mentioned above, had he been a betting man, which would have attracted his tenner even though he recognised there was a long way to go.

Nevertheless bikesportnews.com couldn’t risk putting the question: “We’ve said this before, you can’t judge the season by what happens in Australia but what do you think now?”


Whitham: “Well yes, a little bit of me is still what we said. We knew the Ducati was going to be strong, it is obvious when you’re subtly improving a bike which was already good, it is difficult to do something to a bike that didn’t already work so well. In that respect the Ducati has been like I expected.

“[Michael] Rinaldi impressed me. I have been reading a bit about him and he’s fitter, stronger and mentally focused. With two podiums he’s obviously near the front and the bike looked better, more stable coming out of corners.

“That said, in race one Bautista was all over the place but it was more due to the conditions and tyres. Other people who have made steps include [Andrea] Locatelli - he looks alright on the bike. Disappointments were obviously Toprak, it was a bit of a mixed meeting for him but Jonathan Rea was the big loser. In race one he was a bit unlucky due to either a small mechanical or electrical glitch. The problem you can have these days is when the quick shifter stops working, and that’s an electrical problem, you’ve got to start using your clutch and the problem now is that your clutch is in an odd place. Most riders will use a scooter type rear brake on the left handlebar. The clutch is so high it is difficult to use and you only use it maybe once per race because that’s going off the line. So he did really well to ride round that and finish second.

“Other than the first weather affected race, Jonathan would be disappointed. He ended up trying to come back from ninth or tenth. He struggled to pass and to be aggressive”

BSN: “So apart from Bautista, who looks as though he’s going to walk it, what do you think of our favourites who were almost unbeatable but they aren’t now it seems?”

Whitham: “As we said earlier, Philip Island is normally not indicative as to what is going to happen in the championship. Jonathan and Toprak are two of the people you would pick to go well at Phillip Island because they have before. So it was a bit of an odd one and does look slightly ominous. Everybody thought that Bautista was going to be strong and whether this was one of the circuits where they needed to beat him I’m not sure. It has a fairly long straight and a very fast corner but he looked good in all conditions.”

BSN: “So who do you think outside the ‘Titanic Trio’ is likely to finish in the top few. Who has surprised you?

Whitham: “Not surprised me but [Axel] Bassani had a reasonable meeting. Locatelli looks like he made his name and especially Rinaldi, who looks like he’s made a step, and Aegerter as a rookie. It looks like BMW still have work to do and the best races over the weekend were Supersport. The Brits went really well, every one of them. [Harry] Truelove was outstanding and Taz Mackenzie was spectacular. Helped by the weather because he has a bike which is 15 to 20 bhp down but he got no points because his Honda was not homologated.”

BSN: “What about other British riders? Scot Redding, Alex Lowes, Tom Sykes?

Whitham: “Redding I think needs a bike. I’ll stand by what I said before the season, they had work to do and it’s what the team can do to give him what he wants. The ominous thing about machines is that Ducatis are going really, really well.

“Tom Sykes had an unlucky meeting, in fact a complete disaster but that team is normally a savvy team so I’m going to put that down as bad luck.


“Alex again unlucky because at times he looked really quick. We all want Alex to do well and we all know that if everything is right he can be the man to beat. Hopefully he will get his season going but we keep saying that.”

BSN: “Just going back to Jonathan and putting him aside from Bautista and Toprak he is surely the big question?”

Whitham: “In the wet the bike had issues. In the dry it didn’t look like he’d made a lot of progress at all.”

BSN:”And hadn’t they got the extra horsepower we thought they were going to get?

Whitham: “No, they didn’t get the extra 500 revs which means I don’t think they’ve got a bike much quicker than before. For the championship, I hope Ducati doesn’t dominate this year because I thought that even with the Ducatis being slightly quicker last year we had a reasonably even championship with Toprak and Jonathan able to stay with Alvaro. Next weekend in Indonesia on a completely different track we will find out and perhaps get a much clearer view of the season.”

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