REA’S EARLY GAMBLE PAYS OFF IN RACE 1 FLAG-TO-FLAG
Action, chaos, rain, sunshine, and the ultimate flag-to-flag race summarises World Superbike Race 1 return to Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit! Ultimately, it was Rea and Razgatlioglu’s early pit stop on lap 10 that may have just been the deciding factor to this spectacular Race 1 podium.
After 24 races without a race win to his name, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racin Team WorldSBK) became a race winner once again in the opening World Superbike Race at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) who ultimately made the decision behind Rea to pit on Lap 10, finished Race 1 in 2nd, while Alex Lowes makes it a Kawasaki 1-3 to bring it home in third.
With the rain coming to a halt, and the sun poking through the clouds, you could sense there was going to be a flag-to-flag coming our way. It was Bautista who lead the opening few laps from Pole Position, with Razgatlioglu and Rea following close in his tracks. For Alex Lowes, it wasn’t the start our Race 2 winner in 2020 was hoping for, dropping back to 5th place off the start from 3rd on the grid.
As riders made their way into Miller Corner, the first hard braking point of the 12-corner circuit, no changes were made in rider order at the front half of the field, with everyone looking to play it safe to let the recently crowned World Champion lead the way. Rea made his first big move of the race on Lap 2, diving under Toprak Razgatlioglu under brakes into Turn 1, but subsequently couldn’t get the Kawasaki machine to stop in trying conditions. Rea found himself in the grass, having to rejoin just behind his teammate Lowes.
It wasn’t until Lap 8 that Lowes found a sudden bounce of confidence in the quickly drying conditions, making it a Kawasaki 1-2 at the halfway mark. Lowes was capitalising on his newfound confidence, lapping nearly half a second faster than Rea, Razgatlioglu and Bautista, with a clear aim to break away from the pack in what was looking to be a flag-to-flag situation.
Xavi Fores (BARNI Spark Racing Team) was the first rider to ultimately make the gamble to pit on Lap 9, followed by Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) as the second rider to pit.
From here, the train started rolling for the highly anticipated flag-to-flag race. Next to pit was Rea and Razgatlioglu in tandem on Lap 10, the early decision that ultimately shaped the remainder of the race. Despite pulling into pit lane side-by-side, it was the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK who had their tyre-changing processes nailed, with a swift change and timed to perfection, Rea rejoined the race in P10.
The change of tyres however for Toprak Razgatlioglu was not as fast as what the Pata Yamaha with Brixx team was expecting, seeing the Turkish rider lose 4 seconds to Rea. Speaking with Razgatlioglu after the race, he said an issue with the front tyre was the cause of the 4-second loss. Despite losing 4 seconds to Rea in pit lane, Razgatlioglu rejoined in 11th place.
Alvaro and his Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Team made the call to pit on Lap 11, and despite the seamless tyre change it looked to be too late for the three-time race winner here to make enough ground on Rea, and Razgatlioglu. Lowes was the last of the leading five to pit on Lap 12.
Rea’s victory gave him his first win in 181 days and 24 races as well as moving him on to 118 wins in WorldSBK; double the number of Carl Fogarty who is second on the all-time list. He also became the first rider to have a winning career spanning more than 13 years. Razgatlioglu claimed his 81st podium, and the 28th of his 2022 campaign, while Lowes took his 32nd podium in third place despite losing time in the pit stops.
Jonathan Rea: “Yeah very nice race because it was a bit of everything, I had to keep my composure and my mentality. I tried to make the pit stop at the right time because I could see the track was drying very quickly. Alex was very fast in the beginning, so I thought why not, lets go and roll the dice and it worked. My guys did a great pit stop and they gave me a good bike, compromised on a wet and dry set up and I was able to adjust the bike while I was riding as well so a big thanks to the Kawasaki Racing Team. It was so blistery coming up through hayshed [Turn 8] I was getting blown onto the wet part of the track and then going down into MG that part of the circuit remained wet, I was always braking early. I was racing in the 31’s cautiously.
Toprak Razgatlioglu: “After the race today I was feeling better, especially in the wet conditions I feel the bike is much better. Today we start the race feeling track is not great (wet), the rear was sliding and everyone was the same. After we see a dry line, I was closing to Jonny because I was not eating the tyre. Today was strange weather, I was waiting for more rain but I see very clear sky and after I see Jonny enter the box I enter in directly after him. The front tyre was not going in, there was a problem with the front tyre. The team is now not happy about this, but anyway, this is teamwork it is why I am here because we are together. Anyway, Championship is almost finished, I am second and I want to fight with Jonny for the win but maybe tomorrow.”
Alex Lowes: “Yeah it was a strange race I felt like I was one of the fastest riders, I was fast in the wet fast in the dry so I am just happy to be on the podium. I just want to be battling with the front and show my speed. I enjoyed my race it’s always strange when you have to pit in the middle. In the end I am on the bike, I can come in whenever I want. Maybe. I was too late to pit, I was thinking I will pit when the first person pits, but I was in front so I didn’t know when to pit and I wanted to use the wet tyre as much as possible. I just missed the window a little bit.”
Fourth place went to Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) after he had another strong result, with the Italian passing Bautista in the closing stages shortly after Lowes had. Lowes’ move on Bautista came on Lap 17 when he went around the outside of Turn 9 to move into the podium places. However, the results of the race mean Ducati secured the 2022 Manufacturers’ Championship, the 18th time for them in WorldSBK. The best Independent rider for Race 1 went to Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in sixth spot as he pitted on the same lap as Bautista.