WorldSBK came back with a bang in the opening round of the 2017 season. With five different leaders and four manufacturers in the scrap for the podium the Phillip Island crowd was treated to a superb season opener that eventually saw Jonathan Rea come out on top.
The Northern Irishman edged the win from Chaz Davies after a race that saw the field race with one eye on tire conservation and the other on their rivals. Afterwards Rea compared the 22 lap affair to a cycling race where everyone tried to shadow their rivals rather than show their true pace. With that being the case it allowed the likes of Alex Lowes and Leon Camier to fight at the front and the Yamaha rider came within a whisker of the podium.
Lowes spent the winter working on his race consistency and ironing out mistakes and it showed from the outset. Settling into a comfortable top five position the former British Superbike champion started to make some moves on the front runners and spent some time in a deserved lead.
“I've worked really hard this winter and even here at Phillip Island I've managed to do three race simulations before today,” said Lowes after finishing fourth. “This result shows all the hard work that we have done and in the last ten laps we were really strong. We need to improve in a couple of areas but it was fantastic to be fighting at the front. For Race 2 everyone can improve but I think that with a few adjustments we can stay at the front. The goal is to keep improving and get a strong finish and move on to Thailand.”
Lowes will start from pole position in Race 2 ahead of Xavi Fores and Leon Camier on the reordered grid. It was a hugely impressive performance from Camier with the MV Agusta rider recovering from losing almost all of Friday's running to finish sixth. He will start third in tomorrow's race and knows it's crucial to make a quick start.
“This is a massively unexpected result for us,” said Camier. “I was right at the limit though to get to the front but I think the pace will be a lot faster tomorrow. It's good for us that with the new grid we'll start on the front row and I really need to make sure I get my head down and set some fast times right away.”
For Fores the key will be managing his tire life with the Spaniard saying that his rear tire will be a point of concern. The biggest concern for the front runners will be the speed with which Rea, Davies and Tom Sykes can get through the field. The podium men will start Race 2 from the third row but given the large group we saw at the front today at Phillip Island there's no reason to expect them to be overly taxed in getting back onto the podium.
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