World champion Jonathan Rea (Kawaski) has edged out fellow Briton Chaz Davies (Ducati) in a brilliant opening race of the world superbike season at Phillip Island this afternoon.
In a cracking race to start the 29th season of WorldSBK racing, it all boiled down to a dogfight between the pair on the final lap. Davies managed to get past Rea at turn 10, but it was short-lived as Rea blasted straight back into the lead at the next bend and held the advantage to the chequered flag.
The final margin between the pair was 0.063 seconds, with Honda’s Michael van der Mark scoring an excellent third position on his Honda.
Josh Brookes (BMW Motorrad) was the leading Aussie in 10th position as he contested his first WorldSBK race in nearly a decade.
Rea was particularly animated after his 30th WorldSBK win, and after a celebratory wheelie at Siberia stopped out of MG to celebrate with his ‘local’ mates from Cowes and Bright — he spends his Aussie summers shuttling between the two Victorian towns with his Phillip Island wife, Tatia, and two young sons, Jake and Tyler.
At one stage, the race featured a freight train of up to 10 riders, but as fighting progressed the likes of polesitter Tom Sykes (Kawasaki), Nicky Hayden (Honda), Davide Giugliano (Ducati) and Sylvain Guintoli (Yamaha) dropped off the pace, with Rea mostly leading form the front in his typically unfussed manner.
Van der Mark was the last rider to lose the tow, and he only managed to cross the finish line just of Giugliano, who set the fastest lap of the race (1:31..445) on the final 4.448km circuit.
Sykes was fifth, just in front of Guintoli, followed by Leon Camier (MV Agusta), Jordi Torres (BMW Motorrad), Hayden and Brookes.
Guintoli’s teammate Alex Lowes was as high as sixth but crashed out on lap 16, while another to bite the dust — agonisingly — was German rookie Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad) on the final turn in the race.
The second Australian, Ducati rider Mike Jones, was 14th.
Race two is at 3:00pm tomorrow as Rea chases the first clean sweep at Phillip Island since 2011.
RACE ONE WORLDSBK RESULTS
1 . Jonathan Rea (Northern Ireland) – Kawasaki
2. Chaz Davies (Brit) – Ducati +.063 secs
3. Michael van der Mark (Netherlands) – Honda +.487
4. Davide Giugliano – Ducati +.647
5. Tom Sykes – Kawasaki +3.429
6. Sylvain Guintoli – Yamaha +3.510
7. Leon Camier – MV Agusta +10.721
8. Jordi Torres – BMW +11.539
9. Nicky Hayden – Honda +15.534
10. Josh Brookes (Aust) – BMW +23.239
14. Mike Jones (Aust) – Ducati +44.72