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.
The lights went out and the two Ducatis charged to the front ahead of the two Kawasakis, Marco Melandri leading his teammate Chaz Davies into the first turn. Jonathan Rea took second place off Davies and, further round the lap, Sykes pushed Davies back to fourth. Alex Lowes and Xavi Fores latched onto the four riders ahead and it looked like nobody was going to break away at the front and run away with it.
On the second lap, Rea and Sykes both worked their way past Melandri and Davies tried to join them but couldn't pass his Ducati teammate. Fores and Lowes swapped back and forth and at the start of lap three, Melandri drafted past Sykes. The top six bunched up together, finally creating a gap from them to Michael van der Mark in eighth.
After more jostling, jockeying and tyre conserving, the groups behind the top six caught up, all bunched behind Melandri who took the lead on lap six.
On the eighth lap, fourteen bikes were all within striking distance of one another, then it was twelve and then it was six. On the tenth lap, the lead changed again, with Tom Sykes passing Davies, then Rea and finally Melandri, Alex Lowes also made a play for the front, passing Sykes at the Honda hairpin and becoming the fourth man to lead the race. A lap later, Jonathan Rea took the lead back, powering past on the Gardner straight. Rea led Lowes, Sykes, Melandri, Davies, Leon Camier and Xavi Fores with just a second's gap from Fores to the battle behind.
Then, on the fifteenth lap, heading into turn two, Marco Melandri crashed out and had to get his bike out of the gravel, returning in nineteenth place, and limping to the pits to join Lorenzo Savadori, crash, and Josh Brookes, blown head gasket, as non-finishers.
Leon Camier and Xavi Fores closed up to the front four and then they were six. More swapping around down the straight until two laps from the end when Lowes made a small mistake and introduced a gap to the front three. Sykes, Rea and Davies made the first group and Lowes, Fores and Camier made the second. It was now time to forget about tyre conservation and try to win.
Rea was in the lead, having charged down the straight into the first turn, with Davies and Sykes close by. Davies was visibly quicker than Sykes, having to go round the outside of his Kawasaki at turn one to avoid hitting him. Once Davies got the drop on Sykes, he closed up to Rea in no time and the pair left Sykes behind to deal with a fast Yamaha with Alex Lowes on it.
Rea rode defensively and quickly, and Davies couldn't find a way past. As the corners counted down, Davies was left with only the last corner or the straight. Riding six to eight inches from Rea's rear tyre, Davies powered out of the last corner and charged to the line, pulling out of Rea's clean air and powering to the flag.
It wasn't to be; Jonathan Rea crossed the line four hundredths of a second ahead of Chaz Davies and started his title defence with a win and twenty-five points. Davies finished in second with Tom Sykes a second behind him and Alex Lowes a mere three hundredths of a second behind Sykes. Leon Camier held off an attack from Xavi Fores, rounding out the top six.
Race Two tomorrow will have a new grid, headed by Alex Lowes, Leon Camier and Xavi Fores. Row two will be Jordi Torres, Eugene Laverty and Michael van der Mark and Row three will be Tom Sykes, Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea, the world champion being rewarded with ninth place for his victory. Marco Melandri, Lorenzo Savadori and Nicky Hayden make up the fourth row.
|1||1||J. REA||Kawasaki ZX-10R|
|2||7||C. DAVIES||Ducati Panigale R||0.042|
|3||66||T. SYKES||Kawasaki ZX-10R||1.050|
|4||22||A. LOWES||Yamaha YZF R1||1.082|
|5||2||L. CAMIER||MV Agusta 1000 F4||3.002|
|6||12||X. FORÉS||Ducati Panigale R||3.320|
|7||81||J. TORRES||BMW S 1000 RR||8.725|
|8||50||E. LAVERTY||Aprilia RSV4 RF||12.135|
|9||60||M. VAN DER MARK||Yamaha YZF R1||12.180|
|10||88||R. KRUMMENACHER||Kawasaki ZX-10R||12.439|
|11||69||N. HAYDEN||Honda CBR1000RR||19.344|
|12||21||M. REITERBERGER||BMW S 1000 RR||21.336|
|13||40||R. RAMOS||Kawasaki ZX-10R||24.866|
|14||15||A. DE ANGELIS||Kawasaki ZX-10R||24.902|
|15||6||S. BRADL||Honda CBR1000RR||28.936|
|16||84||R. RUSSO||Yamaha YZF R1||39.404|
|17||86||A. BADOVINI||Kawasaki ZX-10R||42.941|
|18||37||O. JEZEK||Kawasaki ZX-10R||48.043|
|RET||33||M. MELANDRI||Ducati Panigale R||7 Laps|
|RET||25||J. BROOKES||Yamaha YZF R1||16 Laps|
|RET||32||L. SAVADORI||Aprilia RSV4 RF||17 Laps|