Superbike World Championship, Australia

Rea starts off on the wrong foot

For once, Jonathan Rea did not take a double podium on the Phillip Island circuit. Only fifth at the finish of the first race of the season, the triple world champion nevertheless was back in form on Sunday, finishing second hard on the heels of the winner.

The Races

Hard also on tires is last, long curve in the Phillip Island track, and this year it played tricks on the Kawasaki riders. And on Saturday afternoon Jonathan Rea had to deal with a bike that almost forced him to retire. Fifth on the finish line, he caught up the next day by fighting it out to the finish and the checkered flag with Marco Melandri. Still lacking grip in acceleration, the Championship title holder could not prevent the Italian from scoring a twin-win for this first event of the season. Starting in pole position, Sykes finished second on Saturday before failing to make it to third place on the podium the following day, also a victim of a lack of power control in the last two sectors of the Australian circuit.For his debut in Superbike, Razgatlioglu took thirteenth and tenth places. In Supersport, the Kawasaki riders also a somewhat delicate start to the season. Victim of a bad crash during the practice test sessions, and handicapped by his tires during the race, Kenan Sofuoglu had to settle for thirteenth place at the finish of the first race of the season. Okubo complained about vibration problems with his bike and could do no better than fourteenth.

The Championship

While Marco Melandri took the lead in the World Superbike with two wins this weekend, the Kawasaki riders limited the damage by leaving the State of Victoria in second and third place in the overall standings. Sykes scored thirty-three points and Rea thirty-one. Razgatlioglu is in twelfth place while in Supersport Sofuoglu and Okubo chalked up three and two points respectively in the evening of the first race of the season.

The background

Since his debut with Kawasaki in 2015, Jonathan Rea had never finished better than second place in the opening event of the World Superbike Championship held in Australia. And he's consistently made the podium ever since Magny-Cours 2016. So this is the first time since he has raced on the ZX-10 RR that the Brit is not in first place in the overall WSBK rankings. Three-time world champion in three seasons, Rea flunked last weekend on the Phillip Island track.

Guilty? «Certainly not» says Pere Riba, Jonathan’s chief mechanic. «If we hadn’t had a tire problem, we would have finished on the podium, and maybe even in first place.»  Rea was not the only one to experience tire problems on the very fast Australian circuit. So much so that for safety reasons, the race management imposed a change of tires during the second round held on Sunday. A measure that allowed Rea to fight for victory until he came out of the final bend…