Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea started his title defence in style with a hard-fought victory in the season-opener at Phillip Island.
In what was the first Saturday race in the history of WSBK, Rea led for most of the race but was never quite allowed to get away from the chasing pack throughout. However, thanks to a near-perfect display of riding last year’s winner was never quite challenged and ultimately finished just in front of Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing Ducati), with Michael van der Mark on the Honda CBR a distant third.
Rea made the best start of those on the front row and took the lead into turn one, but was overhauled by his Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes at the start of the third lap.
Shortly after, something of a train formed behind the Kawasaki pair, with the two Ducatis, Hondas and Yamahas following closely behind the lead duo.
Sykes continued to control the pace but never quite pulled away from the pack, with Rea once again gaining the lead when he out-braked his team-mate going into turn one on lap nine.
That move seemed to unsettle the former champion, who soon found himself behind the Ducatis and Hondas and dropped down to sixth place by the 10th lap.
In front, Rea seemed to have the measure of the chasing pack and even though he wasn’t really able to pull away, the chasing packing was steadily strung out over the next couple of laps.
Behind the leader, Davies, David Giugliano (Ducati) and Van der Mark continued to swap positions as the race reached the half-way point.
As the race progressed, it was only Davis and Van der Mark that were able to keep the pace with Rea, although the Dutchman fell off the pace with two laps remaining.
On the final lap, Davies attempted a pace on Rea through Lukey Heights, and while he achieved his objective, the Kawasaki rider kept his wits about him and regained the lead with the undercut into the next corner and hung on to take the chequered flag.
The victory was the 30th of Rea’s Superbikes career.
After setting the fastest lap at the final time of asking Giugliano on the second Ducati claimed fourth place, with Sykes bouncing back from his early set-backs to claim fifth.
Sylvain Guintoli brought his PATA Yamaha R1 home for a respectable sixth place some three seconds off the lead.
Leon Camier on the sole MV Agusta found himself in 13th place after a poor start, eventually got the better of Althea BMW’s Jordi Torres to claim seventh, with Nicky Hayden on the sister Honda CBR1000RR in ninth.
Josh Brookes on the Milwaukee BMW claimed the final position in the top 10 after coming out on top of his battle with Roman Ramos (GO Eleven Kawasaki) and Lorenzo Savadori (IodaRacing Aprilia), although thing would have ended differently had Markus Reieterberger not crashed out from 10th place on the final lap.
The final points were scored by Karel Abraham (Althea BMW), wild-card Mike Jones (Desmo Sport Ducati) and Sylvain Barrier (Pedercini Kawasaki)
Full race results
1. Jonathan Rea GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 22 laps
2. Chaz Davies GBR Aruba.it Racing Ducati 1199R 0.063s
3. Michael van der Mark NED Honda Racing CBR1000RR 0.487s
4. Davide Giugliano ITA Aruba.it Racing Ducati 1199R 0.647s
5. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 3.429s
6. Sylvain Guintoli FRA PATA Crescent Yamaha R1 3.510s
7. Leon Camier GBR MV Agusta RC F4 RR 10.721s
8. Jordi Torres ESP Althea BMW S1000RR 11.539s
9. Nicky Hayden USA Honda Racing CBR1000RR 15.534s
10. Josh Brookes AUS Milwaukee BMW S1000RR 23.239s
11. Roman Ramos ESP GO Eleven Kawasaki ZX-10R 23.411s
12. Lorenzo Savadori ITA IodaRacing Aprilia RSV4 24.012s
13. Karel Abraham CZE Althea BMW S1000RR 37.281s
14. Mike Jones AUS Desmo Sport Ducati 1199R 44.720s
15. Sylvain Barrier FRA Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R 46.357s
16. Dominic Schmitter SUI Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R 1m 08.238s
17. Saeed al Sulaiti QAT Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R 1m 08.299s
18. Peter Sebesteyen HUN Team Toth Yamaha R1 1m 30.771s
19. Imre Toth HUN Team Toth Yamaha R1 1 lap
20. Markus Reiterberger GER Althea BMW S1000RR 1 lap
21. Alex Lowes GBR PATA Crescent Yamaha R1 16 laps completed
22. Xavi Fores ESP Barni Ducati 1199R 12 laps completed
23. Alex de Angelis RSM IodaRacing Aprilia RSV4 2 laps completed
Did not start
Toprak Razgatlioglu TUR Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R