The first race of the Australian (AusWorldSBK) round of the WorldSBK season has been run and it was a thriller – we take a look at the practice, qualifying sessions and the first race with photos from Leonard Smith.
WorldSBK: Practice 1
2013 WorldSBK Champion Tom Sykes put in the fastest lap of a difficult first practice session at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, continuing his impressive pace from preseason testing. Reigning Champion and Sykes’ key rival, teammate Jonathan Rea, did lead the times for part of the session, taking the honours from 2014 Champion Sylvain Guintoli.
Guintoli, who was fastest in the final preseason test session on Tuesday afternoon, was fastest out the blocks once the field were on the pace and stayed at the top for a lot of the session on a 1’31.779. Rain then descended on the circuit, first in Sector 4 and then over the whole track, meaning it was another 40 minutes before the times started to tumble.
Rea then went a tenth quicker, Guintoli soon returning the favour, before Yorkshireman Sykes finally set a 1’31.543 to top the session with only a few minutes remaining.
Notable laps came from several riders including MV Agusta rider Leon Camier, who put in a stunning lap of 1’31.650 to end the session in 4th, and Markus Reiterberger, who was the fastest BMW by some margin although teammate Torres only did limited running after his crash in testing and minor surgery in Melbourne on Wednesday.
With the top three riders of the first session covered by less than a tenth of a second, the grid will be hoping for a full dry session this afternoon to further lower the lap times.
WorldSBK: Practice 2
Friday times now decide entry to the Tissot-Superpole 2 session, and the man who leads the way after a day of track time is 2014 Champion Sylvain Guintoli. The only man to set a lap within a 1’30 bracket all day and consequently the fastest on Friday, the Frenchman kept his YZF R1 almost 4 tenths clear of next man on the timesheets, Honda rider Michael Van Der Mark.
With much of the session dedicated to longer runs, the expected dash for the line in the last stage of the session saw a lot of track action. Reigning Champion Jonathan Rea did a long and consistent run as he dueled with Michael Van Der Mark for the top spot in both long run and one lap pace, before Guintoli dropped his time significantly with a lap that proved unbeatable by the end of the session. The rhythm of the reigning Champion, however, looks set to be difficult to beat. Van Der Mark, who lead laps last year in Phillip Island, also looked impressive over a longer run.
The top ten times were very competitive, with Sykes, Hayden, Giugliano and Davies all looking solid around the Australian track. Lorenzo Savadori put in a great lap to join them in the top ten, and the fastest BMW from the morning session, Markus Reiterberger, maintained his title as just that. By virtue of the combined timesheet, the German pips Alex Lowes to a final entry into Tissot-Superpole 2.
Leon Camier remained the fastest Italian motorbike on track on his MV Agusta, with his pace of the morning proving no fluke. Another surprise of the day was Guintoli’s teammate Lowes, who was unable to replicate the pace of his sister YZF R1. After making a mistake near the end of the session, automatic entry to Superpole 2 rested on a final push and the British rider missed out. He does however still have chance to fight for the top ten grid positions by going through Tissot-Superpole 2.
Xavi Fores crashed at T12 and was taken to the medical center, suffering an abrasion on his knee, and is set to be reviewed after FP3. Peter Sebestyen also visited the Medical Center for a laceration on his leg, to be reviewed at the end of Friday. Jordi Torres looks set to be struggling with the injury sustained in testing and will be hoping to gain more pace tomorrow.
WorldSBK will be back on track tomorrow morning once more to see how the pack will shuffle overnight, ahead of Race 1 in the afternoon.
Tom Sykes will start his title campaign this year from pole position after breaking the lap record to take the top spot. The Yorkshireman has topped much of pre-season testing and carries that pace through to the first Superpole session of 2016, deposing Yamaha at the top of the timesheet.
After seeing teammate Sylvain Guintoli take the top spot yesterday, Yamaha’s Alex Lowes contested the Superpole 1 session in style, registering the fastest time and ensuring he joined his teammate in Superpole 2 to fight for the top grid positions. The YZF R1 came out the blocks quickly yesterday, ending their first day back in WorldSBK fastest with 2014 WorldSBK Champion Sylvain Guintoli, who saw off stiff competition from Honda’s Michael Van Der Mark and reigning World Champion Jonathan Rea on his Kawasaki ZX-10R. Althea BMW’s Jordi Torres also saw his teammate gain entry straight into Superpole 2, with Reiterberger proving the fastest German bike on track, and took second spot in Superpole 1 to join him in the fight for the top 12 positions. Torres has been suffering with an elbow injury since a crash in the final official preseason tests.
Davide Giugliano was fastest for most of the first half of the Superpole 2 session, with the key challenge coming from Yamaha’s Guintoli once again. With 5 minutes remaining, Markus Reiterberger and Chaz Davies were the first riders to show their hand and leave the pits for the final showdown, with Davies taking the top spot on his first flier. The fast laps then came quick and fast, with Sykes and Rea bringing a later challenge for Kawasaki and the Yorkshireman breaking the lap record. His lap for pole, a 1’30.020, topped the session by 0.078 seconds above Aruba.it Ducati rider Giugliano and gave reigning Champions Kawasaki their first taste of glory in 2016. After a Friday that saw Ducati slower out the blocks than expected, the first row position for Giugliano and small margin of difference makes for fantastic reading for fans of the Italian marque, showing they pose a real threat to the title once again.
Reigning Champion Jonathan Rea will begin his title defence from the front row of the grid, ending the session only a tenth and a half down on the pole position time of teammate Sykes and ending the session just ahead of both the Yamaha riders. The Japanese manufacturer’s first qualifying session on their return to WorldSBK with the YZF R1 saw them qualify in 4th and 5th, with Lowes closing the gap significantly to his teammate Guintoli. Completing the second row was Friday Superstar Flying Dutchman Michael Van Der Mark, who pipped teammate and MotoGP Legend Nicky Hayden to 6th. Hayden will consequently begin his first WorldSBK races from 7th, ahead of reigning STK1000 Champion Lorenzo Savadori who proved the fastest Aprilia in 8th.
Chaz Davies, who was at times frustrated yesterday with his pace, will begin the first Round of 2016 from 9th position, with the Welshman looking to move up the field after challenging spectacularly for the victory last year at Phillip Island and coming home second in the title fight in 2015.
Fastest BMWs Markus Reiterberger and Jordi Torres were the final names in Superpole 2, with impressive rookie Reiterberger beginning his first race from 11th and Jordi Torres closing in on his teammate, riding through the injury sustained in pre-season testing to assure himself a top 12 starting position for the weekend of racing ahead.
WorldSBK: Race 1
The lights will go out for the first WorldSBK race of the new era later today as the flag drops… and the talking stops!
Jonathan Rea has kicked off his title defence with an incredible last lap victory over Ducati rider Chaz Davies, the Kawasaki rider pulling a move around the outside to beat Davies over the line by 0.063 seconds.
After a great getaway for both ZX-10Rs, Sykes and Rea went almost side-by-side into the Southern Loop as the first racing lap of the 2016 season got underway. The lead group off the line was led by the Kawasaki Racing Team pair, with Ducati’s Chaz Davies getting an amazing launch from ninth on the grid to join his teammate Giugliano and Honda rider Michael Van Der Mark in the battle at the front.
Rookie Aprilia rider Lorenzo Savadori was initially the last of the lead group of ten, before Yamaha duo Sylvain Guintoli and Alex Lowes joined Honda rider Nicky Hayden in the push through to join the battle and an eight rider train set off for the line. Sykes lead the group as the Ducatis dueled behind him and Rea, with Flying Dutchman Van Der Mark joining the fun. Sykes, after losing the lead to Rea, then dropped back along with Hayden and the Yamahas of Lowes and Guintoli, leaving the two Aruba.it Ducati riders to tousle with van der Mark in the lead group of four headed by Jonathan Rea.
Rea led the way as the war raged behind him, with the lead group becoming a trio as Davies and Van Der Mark proved the only two able to keep the pace of the reigning Champion. Holding the lead but with both riders behind breathing down his neck, Rea stayed calm and kept his race rhythm going as those behind him continued to play cat and mouse with each other. As the laps ticked down, Davies got closer and started to seriously pressure the Kawasaki rider, seeming to be attempting to test any possible passes he had in mind for the last lap.
On that last lap, Davies pounced down the hill from Lukey Heights, taking the lead just before the final corner, before Rea took the outside line and blasted around the Ducati through the final turn, the two bikes straightening up on the Gardner Straight with almost nothing between them. It was the flash of green over the line first, however, as Rea’s bravery around the outside proved to give him the pace necessary to nudge the nose of the Kawasaki over the line first, separated by only 0.063 seconds.
Van Der Mark came home third behind the two of them, recording his fourth career podium in only his second season, whereas teammate Nicky Hayden struggled to keep the pace in the latter stages of his debut and dropped back to 9th. Local hero Josh Brookes made up for a difficult qualifying session to come home 10th, and 2014 WorldSBK Champion Sylvain Guintoli was the first Yamaha home in 6th, showing great potential for the YZF R1 in its first WorldSBK outing. Leon Camier carried through his incredible form from practice to end the race 7th on his MV Agusta, with Jordi Torres on his Althea BMW behind him in 8th ensuring there were six manufacturers classified in the top 10. Yamaha’s Alex Lowes suffered a crash whilst circulating well within the top ten, walking away from the scene with disappointment the only consequence.
Words by WorldSBK PR
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