2011 WSBK Phillip Island Race Day Press Release Roundup

A roundup of the press releases issued after the opening World Superbike round at Phillip Island:

Brilliant podium on debut for Lowes

PARKALGAR HONDA'S Sam Lowes finished his first World Supersport race for Parkalgar Honda in a thrilling third place, just 0.033seconds behind race winner Luca Scassa at Phillip Island in Australia.

Lowes led for several laps and was in the lead coming out of the last corner before being drafted to the finish line. Miguel Praia failed to finish due to clutch problems while fighting inside the top 10. The next round of the Championship is at the team's home track of Donington Park in the UK.

Sam: "It was a really good race for me - my first time in the Championship with Parkalgar Honda. I was a bit nervous but I got a decent start and then made some moves on the riders around me. I knew it was a long race and was thinking about tyre wear. I passed Luca on the last lap but did not get a mega run on to the start/finish straight. Third in my first race is great; I am loving my team and my bike, I am enjoying myself."

Miguel: "It is not the best start for us as I had to retire from the race when I think seventh place may have been possible. My rhythm and pace from a good start were fast, especially when you consider my qualifying position. Initially I settled behind Roccoli and Ellison before Iannuzzo got past me on the first sector. I was leading the group in 10th position when I retired and this is just bad luck. Otherwise my Parkalgar Honda is strong and competitive and I am looking forward to racing again soon."

Simon Buckmaster, Parkalgar Honda Team Manager: "What a superb ride by Sam to finish third on his debut for the Parkalgar Honda team. He went into the last corner a little too hot in the lead and lost some drive and the other two were able to get past him on the run to the line - but that takes nothing away from his achievement; this is his first time at the track and in our team. Sam's bike was strong everywhere, the package was good and no one can be disappointed with the result.

"Miguel was unlucky to suffer a retirement and the Parkalgar Honda team will look into the reasons for this to make sure it doesn't happen again – he would have scored a strong top 10 position otherwise.

"A quick mention on a good sixth place result for James Ellison on the Parkalgar Honda's sister team Bogdanka PTR Honda – that's very encouraging given he underwent surgery just five days ago. Now it is back to the team workshops to continue development of the bike in time for our first home round of the year at Donington Park in one month's time."

Super sixth for Ellison

BOGDANKA PTR Honda's James Ellison finished the opening World Supersport race in Australia in a superb sixth position just five days after surgery to his left knee.

Second in the morning warm-up and starting from 11th on the grid, Ellison made his way up to eighth by lap six and eventually came home in sixth to collect 10 Championship points.

Polish Bogdanka PTR Honda racer Pawel Szkopek was 15th and closing on the group fighting for 10th position before retiring from the race on lap 11 with an engine problem.

Italian Luca Scassa won at Phillip Island ahead of Broc Parkes after both out-drafted Bogdanka supported Parkalgar Honda's Sam Lowes just meters from the flag. The second race of the season will take place at Donington Park on the 27th of March.

James Ellison: "Considering what we've came through in Australia this week I'm quite happy with sixth. Because of the injury I couldn't steer the bike with my legs and had to work harder with my shoulders - and they got quite tired in the end. I'm a bit disappointed about that because my training and fitness are very important to me and are normally my strong points - but we have a month off now before our home race and I'll be ready for Donington."

Pawel Szkopek: "The team did a great job finding the right setup for me for the race and I was feeling really good on the bike. I had to ride past Florian Marino who stalled at the start but quickly made my way up and had just caught up with a group fighting for 10th position when I was forced to retire with an engine problem. It's a pity, but knowing I could fight for 10th position gives me a lot of confidence ahead of the next race."

Simon Buckmaster: "After the surgery, sixth place is a fantastic result and I'm very proud of James and the whole team. Pawel was having a really good race too and was going for a very solid finish before retiring, which shows great promise ahead of Donington Park next month."

Tough start for Hannspree riders

Hannspreee Ten Kate Honda riders Fabien Foret and Florian Marino endured tough starts to the 2011 World Supersport championship season at Phillip Island in Australia earlier today.

After qualifying on the front row for the 21-lap race, Foret crashed during a wet warm-up this morning, sustaining injuries to his left hand and a fractured L3 vertebra. The French rider opted to start the race and was in contention in the early stages, breaking the four-year-old lap record of compatriot and former Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider, Sébastien Charpentier.

However, on lap 16 Foret was forced to retire from sixth place when his rear tyre went flat – a fate that befell at least two other top ten riders in the race.

Marino, meanwhile, had an eventful start to his first race at Phillip Island, bogging the start and then running wide at turn four on the first lap, which he finished in last place. The plucky 17-year-old fought his way b ack through the field for an impressive seventh place finished.

Florian Marino – P7
The bike just bogged at the start and I was very lucky because nobody bumped into me. When I got going again I arrived at turn four too fast with some slower riders and I had to go straight. When I rejoined the race I was in last place so then I had to come back. The rhythm was not bad compared to the top five riders so that's why I'm so disappointed. I passed rider after rider and then I came to a group of five riders, which I passed one by one and finished the race the best that I could. I took some points, which is a good thing but I'm disappointed that all the work we put in this weekend did not get a better result. It's still the first race and we'll try better for the next round at Donington, which I've ridden on a 125 but it'll be different on a 600. I want to improve again and, for sure, I'll make a better sta rt.

Fabien Foret – DNF
When I saw my fingers after the warm-up crash this morning, I thought my weekend was over. But I got patched up and thought I'd jump on the bike and get some points. Then my back was hurting so I went back to the medical centre and asked them to x-ray it and that's when they discovered the fracture. They said it was up to me whether I rode or not so I decided to try. I was pretty stiff on the bike and made some mistakes changing the way I rode, like braking with four fingers. I was OK for a while but started to get tired and I got some arm pump because of how I was riding. I felt the tyre dropping but I was surprised how fast it was going off and turned up the traction control to stop it spinning. I just tried to stay on the bike and finish the race. Tomorrow I'll have surgery on my finger because the tendon is cracked and I need a skin graft, too. The back just needs rest.

Ronald ten Kate - team manager
We've done six days here now, so we know what we were getting from the tyres and we knew we had the distance. So, the tyre problem is a big surprise – even more since Fabien's injuries are quite big from his warm-up crash. There was quite a bit of blood in his gloves and on the bike when he came in. He was in quite a lot of discomfort during the race but he managed to hang in there with the leading bunch. Even then he broke the lap record, so set-up was not a problem. Then the tyre went flat and there's not much to say about that. We've done six days of testing, done the long runs and even kept the tyre temperatures about 20% cooler than last year with the set-up we've been running. I don't know what caused it but we'll speak with Pirelli later to get their opinion. Florian's start was messed up but to come from last to seventh in your first World Supersport race at Phillip Island is really great . It shows the kind of spirit that's inside him, so we're really happy with that. It's a starting point for him but from here we have to step up a bit. I'm looking forward to taking the team back to Europe because we have the speed on both side of the garage and we'll be fighting strongly at the next round.

Phillip Island – Races. Sunday, 27 February 2011.

It has been a good start to the 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship for Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport. In race 1, Leon Haslam (GBR) secured the team its first podium finish of the season. The team leaves Australia with 33 points in the team standings (fourth overall). Leon lies fourth in the riders' championship (27 points), Troy Corser (AUS) lies 14th (six points).

In race 1, both riders made good starts. After one lap, Leon was still defending his fourth position, while Troy had passed Sylvain Guintoli and Jakub Smrz. After just a couple of laps, Troy suffered badly from a lack of grip and chattering. He was not able to hold his position and finished tenth. Leon had some tough battles with Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri. On lap 17 he passed Marco and was able to defend third until the chequered flag. Leon made a brilliant start in the second race and was first into turn 1. He struggled with the bike's set-up and therefore was not able to defend this position. He finished the race fifth. Lying fourth, Troy found a false neutral on lap nine and fell back to eleventh. In the second half of the race he faced massive tyre degradation and finished the race only 19th .

Leon Haslam:
Result Race 1: 3rd, Gap to 1st: 00:10.719 min / Fastest Lap Race 1: 1:32.266 min Result Race 2: 5th , Gap to 1st: 00:10.885 min / Fastest Lap Race 2: 1:32.560 min
"As a team we have made huge steps forward from two weeks ago. We still have some issues that need looking at in more detail to ensure we can become regular podium finishers, but on the whole we should be happy with the two races. The first race was great; we encountered some issues in race, two but still managed to finish in the top five, so we are definitely happy. A huge credit goes to the team for their efforts this weekend, but we now have to sit down and work out in detail how we plan to make that next step forward."

Troy Corser:
Result Race 1: 10th , Gap to 1st : 00:25.822 min / Fastest Lap Race 1: 1:32.287 min Result Race 2: 19th , Gap to 1st : 00:55.738 min / Fastest Lap Race 2: 1:32.355 min
"We started the race well, I felt good on the bike, but sadly I found a false neutral going into Honda corner and I went off the track. I rejoined down the field and then really struggled for grip. As the race progressed the tyre became really worn and I was losing traction everywhere, I simply couldn't do the times I wanted. We have identified some points that need addressing before Donington Park, but certainly I am looking forward to the rest of the season."

Bernhard Gobmeier (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director):
"Today has been a very rewarding end of what was a tough weekend. Leon did incredibly well and took a well-deserved podium finish for our team. Troy really had to fight with the bike. We now have to analyse the data on his side. I am proud of the entire team – both the guys here at the track, and also the people in Stephanskirchen and Munich. We all fly back home tonight happy and satisfied. But we are hungry for more. These results will not be a one off. We will not have a rest. In four weeks we will race in Donington, and preparations for the first European races have already begun"



Weather: Warm and sunny
Temperature: Ambient 19/20 degrees C / Track 23/37 degrees C
Attendance: 63,200 all weekend


Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) rode two brave races at the opening round of the 2011 FIM Superbike Championship held at Phillip Island, battling against the cumulative effect of recent falls, as well as a field packed with potential race winners. Carlos Checa (Ducati) won both 22-lap races; from Max Biaggi (Aprilia) and Leon Haslam (BMW) in the opener, and from Biaggi and new WSBK rider Marco Melandri (Yamaha) in the second.

Rea had been hospitalised twice, if only for a short time on each occasion, after two big crashes in recent Phillip Island testing. One in private sessions held between 16 and 17 February, and one in the more recent IMS tests, held shortly before race weekend. Rea suffered a further two crashes on Saturday, one in free practice and one that ensured he would only finish 12th in the second Superpole session. Rea entered race-day with a re-injured left wrist and a twice-dislocated ring finger on his left hand, plus bruising and spraining in much of his upper body.

In warm and dry conditions, after significant overnight and morning rains, Rea battled hard in race one but ran straight on while lying fifth, having to settle for a 12th place at the finish. An astounding performance in race two used up all of Rea's energies but he was rewarded with a strong fourth place, a remarkable outcome given all that had happened before.

Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) had a difficult first race to 16th place, fighting a set-up that did not work as he had hoped. A significant set-up change in race two took him from his 16th place grid position to tenth and his first points of the year.

Checa sits on a maximum 50-points after the first round of the year, Biaggi has 40, with Rea in sixth place overall, on 17-points. Xaus is 13th, with six points.

Honda rider comments:

Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR)
Race result: 12th / 4th. Championship position: 6t
"I am kind of annoyed at myself for out-braking myself in race one, but I just had no strength in my hands. I got a really bad start in race two, and got messed up by another rider in turn two. I lost a load of places and then passed Nori, who passed me back. He had more grip than me at that point of the race. I am not strong right now but I was fitter than anyone at the end and I could keep the lap time. I was into the 1'33s until I caught Haslam and Fabrizio; then took time to catch my breath. When I got behind Leon Haslam I could have passed him but kept it for the last lap to make it count, and got fourth. After crashes in testing and everything else that has happened, I have nothing left. Physically, mentally emotionally, everything, I am finished. I just want to go home. If you had told me on Wednesday afternoon when I was lying in hospital that I would come away from here sixth in the championship, I would have laughed at you."

Ruben Xaus – (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR)
Race result: 16th / 10th. Championship position: 13th
"In race two I missed my braking at turn four and lost five positions, but after I came back I worked hard and improved my lap times. I had a fight my way past some riders but I also brought other riders through with me and they had better tyre choices than me at the last laps. I think I lost the chance of seventh or eighth. We changed the bike a lot for race two and we found a good way, it allowed us to step up a little bit. I got some points and finished two races, which is what I needed."


Sam Lowes came within 0.033 seconds of winning his first FIM Supersport World Championship race in Parkalgar Honda colours after 21 frantic laps of the Phillip Island circuit in Australia. Lowes led out of the final corner, after being a perennial contender in practice and qualifying, and having made good use of his front row starting position of third. He was never lower than fourth in what was only his seventh career WSS race and third earned the status of top Honda finisher.

The race, held on a dry track, was won by Luca Scassa (Yamaha) who headed off Broc Parkes (Kawasaki) by only 0.009 seconds. All three leading riders crossed the line almost as one, riding handlebar-to-handlebar.

Five Honda riders made it into the top nine places, with Robbin Harms (Harms Benjan Racing Team Honda) fighting deteriorating rear tyre performance to take an eventually lonely fifth when Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) was forced out with a deflated rear tyre. Foret, the second fastest man in qualifying, fell in morning warm up, damaging two of his fingers and suffering a vertebrae fracture.

In a tough and physically demanding weekend for many riders, James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda) had his own medical issues to overcome to take sixth place. He had damaged the meniscus ligament in his left knee in a crash during official testing last Monday, and underwent keyhole surgery to remove a section of it, to allow him more movement when riding. He had qualified 11th, improving five places during the race.

Despite a terrible start from his seventh place grid slot, a factor that left him 22nd after one lap, Florian Marino (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) made up several places and ended up seventh. Alexander Lundh (Cresto Guide Racing Team Honda) made forward progress from his 20th place on the grid, taking a strong ninth spot.

Gino Rea (Step Racing Team Honda) and Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda) each experienced technical difficulties with clutch slip and retired.

Honda rider comments:

Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: 3rd. Championship position: 3rd
"I was fast going into the final corner, but slow coming out. I think if had come out of the final corner behind Scassa I would not have been able to pass him before the line. The only way to win was to pass him into turn nine and then push hard, and it nearly worked. I am satisfied to make my mark in the class at the start and it is a confidence booster for me to finish on the podium. I have massive boots to fill with Eugene Laverty having been in this team and the squad are used to winning and being up there, so I have no excuses. I have already learned that is a long season and any top five in this race would have been a result at this stage."

Robbin Harms (Benjan Racing Team Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: 5th. Championship position: 5th
"It was a good and tough race, but after ten laps my tyre was destroyed and that was a shame. I passed Foret and settled in sixth and then I saw Chaz Davies had a problem and I was fifth. I would have liked to been able to go the last ten laps with the leading group but it was not possible. A good start for our team, because we make everything by ourselves and we got fifth place, so it was a nice start to the year."

James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: 6th. Championship position: 6th
"I had to use my upper body to push the bike around instead of using my injured leg, and it is so physical here at the best of times. I am really annoyed because I normally don't get tired in races. I had to cling on the straights and my arms started to get tired. But that is all down to the injury from testing a few days ago. But we still got solid points and now we can get on with the rest of the season."

Florian Marino (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: 7th. Championship position: 7th
"I am actually disappointed because I bogged-down at the start and I was lucky that no one bumped me. I arrived at turn four too fast compared to the slower riders, so I ran on straight again and lost time yet again. I was way down on lap one. My rhythm ended up like the top five riders, so I came back a bit and passed rider after rider, and then a big group of five. At the end I finished the best I could, seventh, and took some points. For sure we could do better, but this is the first race."

Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: DNF – Championship position: No score
"When I saw my fingers after the warm-up crash this morning, I thought my weekend was over. But I got patched up and thought I'd jump on the bike and get some points. Then my back was hurting so I went back to the medical centre and asked them to x-ray it and that's when they discovered the fracture. They said it was up to me whether I rode or not so I decided to try. I was pretty stiff on the bike and made some mistakes changing the way I rode, like braking with four fingers. I was OK for a while but started to get tired and I got some arm pump because of how I was riding. I felt the tyre dropping but I was surprised how fast it was going off and turned up the traction control to stop it spinning. I just tried to stay on the bike and finish the race. Tomorrow I'll have surgery on my finger because the tendon is cracked and I need a skin graft, too. The back just needs rest."

Gino Rea (Step Racing Team Honda)
Race result: DNF – Championship position: No score
"My clutch started to gradually go after a few laps and that was that. I just had to sit there and ride as smoothly as I could and not try and aggravate my front tyre either, but the clutch gradually started going. It has been a hard week with a few problems to overcome, so hopefully our teething problems are out of the way now and we can improve."

Rea defies pain for fourth place at Phillip Island

Castrol Honda rider Jonathan Rea battled to fourth position in today's second race of the opening round of the 2011 World Superbike championship at Phillip Island in Australia. His team-mate Ruben Xaus took a top ten finish in the same race as Spaniard Carlos Checa won both outings.

After three heavy crashes during testing and qualifying at Phillip Island, Rea started today's two 22-lappers at Phillip Island from the third row of the grid. A good start in the first outing saw the 24-year-old fighting for a potential podium position before he overshot turn four on lap 14, eventually taking 12th place.

Rea was unable to repeat his first race start in the second outing, finishing lap one in 11th place. He passed several riders, including fellow Briton Leon Haslam on the final lap, however, to take a hard-earned fourth at the flag.

Xaus endured a tough opening race, with handling and clutch issues restricting the Spaniard to 16th place. However, a major chassis change for race two enabled Xaus to match the lap times of leading riders and, barring a mistake on lap one, he might have finished higher than his eventual tenth place.

Jonathan Rea – 12th and 4th
I'm absolutely drained but I guess pretty satisfied after everything we've been through over the last few days. I'm annoyed that I out-braked myself in race one but I had no power in my hands. I passed Nori (Haga) in race two but he came back on a big surge to the leading group and I couldn't go with him. I didn't have much strength but I knew I could be fitter than anyone at the end of the race to keep the lap times. The bike was working really well and I could stay in the 33s until I caught Fabrizio and Haslam, when I took a bit of a breather just to catch my breath and look at them. I could've passed Leon in a few places I think, but I've been doing most of my passing around turns seven and eight and decided to save all my energy to pass him there on the last lap. If you'd told me when I was lying in hospital on Wednesday that I'd come away from here sixth in the championship, I'd have laughed at you. Big thanks to the team, who got a physio here to help me between sessions and races to help me relax, and the bike, which never missed a beat this weekend. We still need to find a little bit of speed on the straights because I struggled passing people into turn one, but overall I'm satisfied with what we got from here.

Ruben Xaus – 16th and 10th
The first race was a disaster so we had to find something for race two and we did. I missed my braking point at turn four on the first lap and lost five places and then got caught with a slower group. I worked hard to get the places back but used up the tyres' performance too much in the first laps. With a few laps to go they were finished but I think I could have finished higher. No complaints though – I didn't expect this position after race one, after which we changed the bike completely. We've had some problems on the bike this weekend but I think we're speaking the same language now. In the end it's been good: we finished both races with no bad consequences and learned a lot, so I'm going to Donington with a big smile on my face.

Ronald ten Kate – team manager

Thank goodness we finished at Phillip Island on a higher note than we experienced before. We've had some bad luck here but race two was pretty good. Jonathan got a bad start but chipped away and did really well to finish fourth considering the state he is still in. Ruben was riding really well too, and got his first top ten finish with the team and really had a ‘clicking' moment there with the machine. We all knew it would be a matter of time for him and it's good that it's happened at the first round. We'll head back to Europe feeling positive and let Jonathan get fully fit again. We'll check all the data for Ruben and look for another step forward for him. After everything though, without these positive points, it would have been a very, very long flight home!

Melandri impresses with Maiden World Superbike Podium at Phillip Island

Yamaha World Superbike Team rider Marco Melandri ended his podium drought this afternoon, stepping up to take third position in the second World Superbike race, his first podium since 2009. The World Superbike rookie started well from his second row position, closing in on defending World Champion Max Biaggi and pushing him to the race finale, interchanging for second position a number of times before finally settling for third at the line, less than 1.5 seconds from double race winner Carlos Checa.

The first race of the day saw both Melandri and his teammate Eugene Laverty start well, Laverty impressing by leading the first two laps of his first ever Superbike race, before dropping back to swap positions with Melandri several times. Laverty claimed fourth and Melandri fifth at the line. Both riders had struggled a bit for rear grip in the first race, and Laverty also from arm pump, problems which were rectified by team set up changes and help from Clinica Mobile prior to race two.

Laverty's second race began with the young Northern Irishman pressing on and holding sixth position until lap eight when a false neutral caused him to run wide, losing valuable time and positions. The same issue was repeated on lap 11, dropping him to 20th position by lap 15. Despite the setback Laverty fought back, pushing back up over seven laps to claim 15th at the line.

As they head to Donington in the UK for the second round of the championship, they do so with Melandri sitting in third in the overall standings with 27 points, his teammate Laverty sits in ninth with 14 points, 13 behind Melandri.

Marco Melandri, Yamaha World Superbike Team
5th, 3rd
"I'm pretty happy with the end results of today, although I wasn't too happy about race one. We've been struggling all week with a rear grip issue, which could be seen in race one. I think we made a good job before race two, changing our set up to deal with it and we were a little bit more aware of our potential afterwards. The bike was a lot better and I felt a lot more comfortable. It's nice to be back on the podium! I wanted to challenge Biaggi for second but in the end my body was slower than my mind at the end of the race, it felt a bit dangerous to make some passes so I was happy to settle for third."

Eugene Laverty, Yamaha World Superbike Team
4th, 15th
"In the first race I had problems with arm pump and had just to sit there, I had the possibility to go third but didn't want to risk my arms. I got it fixed at Clinica, it was just really stiff after five days riding on a Superbike this week! Marco upped the pace in second race; it would have been tough to beat, but there was a definite fourth there for me. Unfortunately two false neutrals killed the race leaving me with one point. On the plus side I'm very positive for Donington, we've clearly got a very competitive package and under race conditions we can see that our competitors aren't as fast as the practice sessions suggested."

Yamaha World Superbike Team Manager - Andrea Dosoli
"Today we got confirmation that all the work we have done is in the right direction. We struggled a bit in race one, both riders complained about a lack of rear grip and we could see we where slow in the last sector. With just a few adjustments we improved the bike for race two, so Marco could follow Max and, at the end, the gap to Carlos Checa was not as big as in race one so he kept a good race pace. Eugene did a great job in race one and he was doing in the same in race two. He really impressed us with a fantastic start he showed he could work under pressure and ride in a tough race. He put in the same performance in race two, unfortunately getting a couple of false neutrals and running off, losing ten seconds each time. If not for this he could have been on the podium.

We showed this weekend that the performance of the team is high with both riders so we should be proud, especially considering this is the first time they have run a two race event on a Sunday. Thank you to all the team for a good job done so far and we will try to be even more competitive at Donington."

Yamaha R6 returns with instant victory as Scassa Takes First World Supersport Victory

Yamaha ParkinGo rider Luca Scassa made it a day to remember this afternoon, enjoying an adrenalin filled battle in the top five for the duration of the World Supersport race. The Italian World Supersport rookie made good use of the R6's superior performance to charge through the pack, leading for some laps before dropping back again. He then passed Sam Lowes on the final straight for a photo finish, claiming victory by just 0.009 seconds.

Scassa's teammate Chas Davies had a less fortunate afternoon. Having found a perfect setup for the Phillip Island circuit, Davies had been in contention for the podium for the majority of the race, fighting alternate for second and third position until a flat tyre forced early retirement on lap 18.

Scassa heads to the next round at Donington in the UK leading the championship with a full 25 points, teammate Davies goes keen to get off the points mark and catch up to his Italian stablemate.

Today's victory marks the first race for the officially supported Yamaha R6 since it won the World championship in 2009 with Cal Crutchlow. An impressive result for the Yamaha ParkinGO Team considering the collaboration with Yamaha was started just six weeks ago.

Top Ten for Sykes in Australia

Kawasaki Superbike Racing Team rider Tom Sykes gave the brand new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R its competitive debut and came away from the opening round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island in Australia with a pair of battling top ten placings.

After a good qualifying session which had him as third fastest on combined times, the Huddersfield rider eventually slotted the Paul Bird Motorsport-prepared machine onto row three of the grid for the two races following Superpole with his Spanish team mate Joan Lascorz one row further back on his World Superbike debut.

With overnight rain giving way to drier conditions for Sunday's two 22-lap races at the classic 4.445km circuit near Melbourne, Sykes was looking good in the early stages of race one and eventually crossed the line in eighth position which he followed up with a solid ninth in race two, despite handicapping himself with a poor start.

As a result, the 25 year old Yorkshireman holds eighth place overall going into his and the Penrith-based team's home round at Donington Park in four weeks time.

For Lascorz, who was celebrating his 26th birthday today, it wasn't the best start to his World Superbike career as he crashed out of race one on lap 13 and then had to retire from the second race with a tyre problem.

Tom Sykes: "I'm happy to be eighth in the championship after the first round as you only have to look at the timing sheets to realise there is a real quality field out there. Less than a second covers something like the first 20 riders in qualifying, so it is quite pleasing in many ways to have been in there. I am a racer and I want to progress quickly but this is the first year with the new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and I am sure we can make even more progress very soon. Everybody in my garage is keen to win, that is what this whole project is about, but it is early days."

Joan Lascorz: "We had different settings on the bike because the conditions changed and it proved difficult in Superpole. I used a qualifying tyre but it made no real difference to the lap time so we had to gamble in the races. It's unfortunate to come away with no points but I hope for better luck at Donington."

Paul Bird, Team Owner: "Tom finishing in eighth and ninth is OK as it's important to get a result and points on the board at the opening round but a top six would have been better and I think he was capable of that. Joan was unlucky to slip off in the first race but his team made a wrong tyre choice in race two and he paid the penalty for that. Hopefully, we can progress further at Donington next time out and as well as Tom and Joan; we hope to welcome Chris Vermeulen back."


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At last,the long wait is over.Finally got to see some great racing.In SS and SBK a lot of butterflies in the tummy's are a thing of the past.The SS race was fantastic.Credit to Sam Lowes and to Luca Scassa,him comming through the pack as he did.Riding as he did in Superstock on the MV,years back.He sure loves that Bell helmet.
SBK was a one horse race no doubt, as I expected.
The huge positive is that going forward,the anticipated top guns for the season came through very well and intact,so they should all be settled now with round #1 off their backs.Pity about Guintoli.
I do,over the length of the season see only one Ducati challenging regularly.
Maybe Ducati should divert a droplet of their GP budget in the direction of Checa.
Max and Aprillia have obviously done a great job in the off season preparation for a title defense.Rea's comeback in race two is a credit to his grit.