Rea triumphs in Phillip Island thriller

World Superbikes delivered in the opening race of the season as Kawasaki were pushed to the line by Ducati with Jonathan Rea taking the first chequered flag of 2017.

Rea made an incredible start from pole position but was swamped by the Ducatis of Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies. Tom Sykes slotted into fourth.

That was to be the story of Race 1 as the Ducatis took the fight to the Kawasaki champions.

Rea and Melandri swapped P1s while Davies and Sykes mixed it up with their team-mates as Xavi Fores, on board a Ducati, also stuck his nose into the battle.

Midway through the 22 lap race it was Yamaha's Alex Lowes who was running the P1 ahead of Sykes and Rea, who appeared to be having a few troubles as he ran it slightly wide through several corners.

Melandri and Davies had fallen to fourth and fifth but were by no means out of the fight as the top seven, including Leon Camier and Fores, were separated by 1.3s.

Whatever troubled Rea was short-lived as he returned to the lead on lap 12 before putting in a 1:31.3 to put half a second between himself and the chasing pack. Sykes, though, was not willing to let his team-mate go and immediately closed the gap with Davies right on his rear wheel.

Melandri's challenge ended in the gravel at Turn 2. He rejoined the race but down in 19th place and soon retired.

The lead changes hands again with six to go as Sykes lead only for Rea to retake P1 with three to go. But it was by no means over as Davies led for a few metres at the start of the final lap only for Rea to again slide up into P1.

Coming to the line it was the reigning WSBK champ who held on to win the opening race of the season ahead of Davies by 0.042s. Sykes was third.

Lowes was fourth ahead of Camier and Fores while Jordi Torres was seventh for BMW. Eugene Laverty, Michael van der Mark and Randy Krummenacher completed the top ten.

Lorenzo Savadori crashed out while Joshua Brookes was forced to park his Yamaha as his race was blighted with more technical issues.

1 REA Jonathan Kawasaki ZX-10R    
2 DAVIES Chaz Ducati Panigale R 0.042
3 SYKES Tom Kawasaki ZX-10R 1.050
4 LOWES Alex Yamaha YZF R1 1.082
5 CAMIER Leon MV Agusta 1000 F4 3.002
6 FORÉS Xavi Ducati Panigale R 3.320
7 TORRES Jordi BMW S 1000 RR 8.725
8 LAVERTY Eugene Aprilia RSV4 RF 12.135
9 VAN DER MARK Michael Yamaha YZF R1 12.180
10 KRUMMENACHER Randy Kawasaki ZX-10R 12.439
11 HAYDEN Nicky Honda CBR1000RR 19.344
12 REITERBERGER Markus BMW S 1000 RR 21.336
13 RAMOS Román Kawasaki ZX-10R 24.866
14 DE ANGELIS Alex Kawasaki ZX-10R 24.902
15 BRADL Stefan Honda CBR1000RR 28.936
16 RUSSO Riccardo Yamaha YZF R1 39.404
17 BADOVINI Ayrton Kawasaki ZX-10R 42.941
18 JEZEK Ondrej Kawasaki ZX-10R 48.043    
RT MELANDRI Marco Ducati Panigale R
RT BROOKES Joshua Yamaha YZF R1
RT SAVADORI Lorenzo Aprilia RSV4 RF