Italian Marco Melandri has drawn first blood as the final WorldSBK pre-season test got underway at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit today, ahead of the opening Yamaha Finance round of the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship starting this Friday.
Melandri was the only rider to dip into the 1min30s mark as he recorded a best lap of 1:30.726 on his Aruba.it Racing Ducati after four hours of track time, with Kawasaki Racing Team pairing Tom Sykes (1:31.067) and world champion Jonathan Rea (1:31.249) second and third.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Kawasaki pair though, with both going down at turn 11 this morning, while Spaniard Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) was another to crash – his indiscretion occurring at turn two.
Triple world champion Rea, who’s won five of the last six WorldSBK races at Phillip Island, didn’t go out in the afternoon session, with Torres also remained in the pits. Both riders are reported to be okay.
Meanwhile, Melandri enjoyed the bragging rights on a windy day one – easterly gusts were up to 30km/h – at the circuit where he was a MotoGP winner in 2006.
Melandri’s Panigale Final Edition was also the fastest down the speed trap, as he whistled down Gardner Straight at a chart-topping 303.4km/h.
Ducati’s last WorldSBK win at Phillip Island was in 2012 thanks to Spaniard Carlos Checa, and the 35-year-old Italian would love to be the man to break that drought this weekend.
Melandri’s teammate, world No. 2 Chaz Davies (1:32.054), was a little off the pace in 10th position, while positions 4-9 were filled by Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda, 1:31.554), Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha, 1:31.682), privateer Xavi Fores (Barni Ducati, 1:31.706), past Phillip Island winner Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia, 1:31.873), Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha, 1:31.914) and Torres (1:31.946).
Australia’s three wildcards circulated at a solid pace on day one, with Wayne Maxwell (Yamaha Racing Team, 1:33.180) the best of the trio ahead of Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda, 1:33.652) and Daniel Falzon (Yamaha Racing Team, 1:34.068).
Testing concludes with two more 120-minute sessions tomorrow – the final shakedown before the real business of racing commences with opening practice on Friday.
WorldSSP: Mahias On Top, West Fifth
French World champion Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha) is already looking ominous heading into the new season as he completed day one of testing as the pacesetter, ahead of Italian teammate Federico Caricasulo and British gun Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing Triumph).
The top eight riders were all from different nationalities, with Australia’s Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing Kawasaki) at the tail end of the bunch – an exceptional debut on a new bike as he looks ahead to again fighting at the front in Sunday’s 18-lap race.
The top 11 riders were separated by less than one second, while Australia’s other two riders, teenagers Tom Toparis (Cube Racing Kawasaki) and Lachlan Epis (GoEleven Kawasaki), were 19th and 24th respectively.
Meanwhile, Australia could have a fourth rider in WorldSSP this weekend, with Queenslander Aiden Wagner to test the Honda of young Northern Irelander Andrew Irwin tomorrow. Irwin broke his hand in a crash this morning, and a decision will be made after testing tomorrow as to whether Wagner’s cameo continues into round one proper.
The opening round of the 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship Yamaha Finance round will feature the 22-lap WorldSBK races on Saturday and Sunday, the 18-lap WorldSSP race on Sunday, and 12 national support races during the weekend across superbike, supersport, supersport 300 and YMF R3 Cup. Aussie WorldSBK icon Troy Bayliss will make his racing comeback in superbike.
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Pre-purchase ticket sales close Wednesday February 21 at 4:00pm. Buy early and save or get your tickets at the gate from 8am Friday, Saturday and Sunday of race weekend.
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For more information contact the circuit on the toll free World Superbike Hotline 1300 728 007 or www.worldsbk.com.au
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**Children 15 and under are free and must be accompanied by a paying adult.