WorldSSP standings after round 1:
The tyre problems of Saturday brought in a mandatory flag-to-flag race, with riders having to change tyres in the middle of the twenty-two lap race, on lap ten, eleven or twelve. The reverse grid is still being used, for some inexplicable reason as it had no effect last year, putting the fourth-placed rider from race one into pole position.
Race Two didn't introduce any changes to the rev limits, the limits aren't introduced until three weekends have taken place, so everyone is still on 3.3% above the rev limit of the road bike. Georgia Flood, the anthem singer, served as a windsock as she sang, showing the wind was still coursing along the start/finish straight as a headwind, increasing the advantage of a slipstream.
The first World Supersport race of the year opens with some controversy before the race even starts, with four riders getting penalised three places for unsafe riding. During qualifying, Federico Caricasulo, Sandro Cortese, Raffaele De Rosa and Jules Cluzel were all deemed to have ridden unsafely in qualifying, slowing down at inopportune times to deal with rivals trying for a tow.
To make matters worse, with tyre problems causing issues, the race has been shortened to just sixteen laps with a mandatory pitstop on lap seven, eight or nine for a new tyre. Without a second bike, this will require every one of the twenty-two riders to get their rear wheel removed and replaced.
Press releases from the teams and series organizers after qualifying and the first race at Phillip Island:
The opening race of 2018 would be the proof of the new rules. Would anyone be able to break the Ducati and Kawasaki dominance at a windy seaside?
Tom Sykes led Marco Melandri into the first turn with Jonathan Rea charging round the outside to challenge Melandri out of the corner and take the inside line to take second place and slot in behind his Kawasaki teammate. Eugene Laverty and Xavi Fores were joined by a charging Chaz Davies to round to the top six, albeit almost a second off the front three.
World Supersport Superpole one was contested by twelve riders, with Stefan Hill sitting the session out after being declared unfit.
Heading into the mid-session tea break, Ayrton Badovini and Loris Cresson held off Mike Di Meglio for the qualifying places but after the tyre change, Niki Tuuli pushed his way to third place with Thomas Gradinger taking it off him a minute later.
The first Superpole of the year took place under unpredictable weather, with a strong wind across the straight making things uncertain. Superpole one had twelve riders fighting for two promotional spots with Jake Gagne and Toprak Razgatlioglu in the two favourite places to advance.
Kenan Sofuoglu had a strange crash at Stoner Corner that brought out the red flags and medical staff, cutting the session short. Lucas Mahias ended the session quickest ahead of Sandro Cortese and Jules Cluzel. Behind the three Yamahas was local favourite Ant West on the Kawasaki holding off another Yamaha, that of Randy Krummenacher. Sofuoglu was sixth quickest in spite of his crash.
Barni Ducati's Xavi Fores was quickest in the morning's untimed session, ahead of the Kawasakis of Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes, and was the only independant rider in the top ten. Yamaha's Alex Lowes and Ducati's Marco Melandri posted almost identical times ahead of the Aprilias of Eugene Laverty and yesterday's quickest man Lorenzo Savadori.
Press releases from the teams and organizers from Friday at Phillip Island:
#AUSWorldSBK– Day 1
Savadori can’t be stopped on Day 1 Down Under
Aprilia and Honda fastest on Friday to lead the charge towards the first qualifying sessions of the year
Jonathan Rea was quickest in the third qualifying session, being the only rider in the top seven to improve on his time from the quicker second session. Alex Lowes, in spite of not getting any track time in the second session, was eighth quickest this session, tenth overall, qualifying him for Superpole two. Leon Camier, in his first race weekend on the Honda, was third quickest this session and second quickest overall behind the day's quickest man Lorenzo Savadori.
Kenan Sofuoglu's fastest time of the second session was the fourth-quickest of the weekend so far. Sandro Cortese, Lucas Mahias and Randy Krummenacher were the next quickest men even thopugh none of them could improve on their morning's time. The only other rider to improve was Mike Di Meglio who lept from eighteenth place to … um, eighteenth place, improving his time by less than two tenths of a second.
As the session ended, it looked like Honda's new rider Leon Camier would reward his new team by ending the session on top, but as the last seconds flickered out, Lorenzo Savadori knocked him down a place and pushed his Aprilia teammate Eugene Laverty down to the third spot. Tom Sykes, Marco Melandri and Jonathan Rea rounded out the top six while championship runner up Chaz Davies was down in ninth place.
Reigning World Supersport champion Lucas Mahias started his title defense at the top of the first practice session, ahead of three other Yamahas, the returning Randy Krummenacher, former Moto 2 rider and first ever Moto 3 world champion Sandro Cortese and Federico Caricasulo. Kawasaki's Kenan Sofuoglu was the quickest non-Yamaha in fifth place.
The 2018 season is finally upon us. With new rules in place, including rev-limiting succesful teams, and with riders changing allegiances, the championship has been tweaked in an effort to make it the most competetive in recent memory.