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.
Press releases from the organizers and some of the teams after the first WorldSBK race and qualifying for the World Supersport class:
Philip Island is a favourite track for riders and fans alike and it produces fast, close racing. The first race of the year and everyone apart from Davies and Fores used the Pirelli SC2 front tyres and the SC1 rears, ready for twenty-two laps where the results determine where you start race two. With Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty both returning to World Superbike and Stefan Breadl and Randy Krummenacher both joining the class, the new mixed with the old as Jonathan Rea, Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies all looked intent on continuing their three-way scrap for the title.
PJ Jacobsen as dominated qualifying up to now, with only Jules Cluzel getting close enough to worry the American's times and Kenan Sofuoglu absent for the first two rounds. Michael Canducci and Christian Gamarino were the quickest Superpole one riders going into qualifying and would have twelve other riders to beat to qualify for the second session.
Eleven riders took part in Superpole one in near-perfect conditions, aiming to take one of the two top spots to advance to the second session. Eugene Laverty, sporting duel-ready musketeer facial hair, was favourite to advance to the second session, eleventh quickest ahead of Michael van der Mark. Leon Camier, thirteenth quickest, missed out on most of the qualifying yesterday and went into Superpole with very little data and a fistful of guesses.
PJ Jacobsen once again tops the timing sheets, ahead of Federico Caricasulo and fast rookie Niki Tuuli. Wildcard Matt Edwards was declared unfit after a crash in Free Practice 2 and isn't allowed to take any further part.
As the flag signalled the end of the morning's untimed session, Marco Melandri deposed Jonathan Rea from the top spot only to have Rea snatch it right back forty seconds later, over a third of a second quicker. Xavi Fores was third quickest ahead of Chaz Davies, putting three Ducatis in the top four. Tom Sykes and Alex Lowes rounded out the top six.
Press releases from the series organizer and some of the teams after the first day of practice at Phillip Island:
Phillip Island Day One
Davies Friday's fastest at Phillip Island
Ducati rider takes opening honours
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was Friday’s fastest participant at the season-opening Yamaha Finance Australian Round, with the Welshman topping the combined FP1 and FP2 timesheets courtesy of a 1’30.189 best time from the morning.
PJ Jacobsen didn't match his morning's blistering top result, but he was still quicker than the rest, challenged by Jules Cluzel who made a great improvement from the previous outing. Federico Caricasulo remains third quickest.
Chaz Davies remains in provisional pole position after a slower second timed session, ahead of Jonathan Rea. Rea and Marco Melandri were quickest this session with Xavi Fores maintaining his strong pace from the morning's outing in third. Melandri's return to the series is going better than that of his former teammate Eugene Laverty, with the Irishman sitting in the top spot of Superpole one ahead of Michael van der Mark.
With reigning champion Kenan Sofuoglu missing the first two rounds due to an injured wrist, PJ Jacobsen rose to the challenge on the MV Agusta and was over half a second quicker than Federico Caricasulo and Lucas Mahias, both on Yamahas, and Roberto Rolfo on an MV Agusta. A further half second back, Ayrton Badovini held off Honda-mounted Jules Cluzel.
Chaz Davies held off Jonathan Rea by under a tenth of a second at the end of the year's first timed session. There was a red flag early in the session due to oil on the track, but it caused less than ten minutes of stoppage. Xavi Fores was third quickest on the BARNI Ducati, ahead of Tom Sykes and Marco Melandri. Josh Brookes, the only wildcard of the weekend, was sixteenth quickest, almost two seconds off the frontrunners.
The new season is upon us and, as the riders go against the clock in anger for the first time this year, let’s catch up with who is riding what bike and on which team, and just because nothing challenges the fates like scrying the future, we will make some bold and inaccurate predictions. There are twenty riders, ten of whom have won a world title while three of the rest have a national title under their belt.