Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) has won his 40th World Superbike race win, taking maximum points at Phillip Island from Ducati arch-rival Chaz Davies in yet another nail-biter, February 24-26.
Race one boiled down to an incredibly tight duel between Rea and Davies on the final lap, with the ice-cool Rea took taking the win by 0.025 seconds.
Incredibly, just 0.067 of a second separated the pair on Sunday afternoon, after 44 laps.
Marco Melandri (Ducati) was third in race two, after crashing out of race one.
“To win two last-lap battles here is pretty tough so I am so happy,” Rea said.
“We worked so hard in the off-season to work on tyre conservation, and my rear tyre still looks good on the left side after race two so that bodes well for the rest of the season.
“I just wanted to come here and start my year in a good way, and to leave with 50 points is very nice.”
It’s the second consecutive clean sweep for Rea at the flowing GP circuit and he now also joins Carl Fogarty, Aussie Troy Bayliss and Noriyuki Haga in the exclusive WorldSBK 40-race winning club.
Rea won from ninth on the grid in race two as a revised grid formation made its debut in WorldSBK.
The top three finishers in race one now start from the third row of the grid in race two; riders who finished in positions 4-6 starting from the front row; and riders who finished in positions 7-9 starting from the second row.
The new arrangement saw Sam Lowes (Yamaha) on ‘pole position’, with Leon Camier (MV Agusta) and Xavi Fores (Ducati) alongside him.
Lowes was the early leader, and Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) also had a small taste of life at the front, but before too long Rea, Davies, Lowes, Fores and Melandri were in command.
Melandri, returning to WorldSBK after a two-year break, finished 0.249 seconds behind Rea, while Lowes made it consecutive fourth places on the massively improved Yamaha.
Xavi was fifth, from world No. 2 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki), Michael van der Mark (Yamaha), Camier, Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) and Laverty
Australia’s wildcard Josh Brookes brought his Yamaha home in 12th position, just on the tail of Alex de Angelis (Kawasaki) after he retired with overheating issues in race one.
“I felt almost obligated to come to Phillip Island as a WSBK wild card because I am the only rider representing Australia in Superbike. I just came here to do my best and give it my all. We all have.
“Saturday we blew a water pipe off the motor – we thought it just was a damaged pipe, so quickly replaced it to no avail.
“We had to strip the motor down and discovered it was a head gasket failure.
“After warm-up, we saw the water temp was going up again and pressure was building up in the radiator.
“We had to swap out the head gasket again this morning (Sunday) between the morning warm up and the race.
“Everyone in the team chipped in and worked like hell. We had a minimal amount of time to do a massive job.
“We had to rip the engine out, put it side by side with another engine, borrow the head and head gasket off that engine in order to get at least one engine to go!
“It was a huge effort by the guys and the fact we made it out on track at all this weekend was amazing,” Brookes said.
Nicky Hayden (Honda) was DNF after crashing at turn 10, while Jordi Torres (BMW) retired with a technical problem.
The dejected look on Stefan Bradl’s (Honda) face after Race 2 said it all, with two 15th place finishes the winged-manufacturer’s Superbike racing division has a lot of work to do.
Bradl is quoted in Motorsport Magazin saying “I’m very disappointed because we just do not find any ways to improve the bike, we’re in a mess.”
“The biggest problem is that we have absolutely no grip at the turnout when the tire starts to break down, and the electronics are very uncontrolled, and the interplay between Traction Control and Throttle Connection does not work at all drive.”
Rea takes 50pts into round two in Thailand from March 10-12, ahead of Davies (40), Lowes (26), Sykes (26), Fores (21), Camier 19), van der Mark (16), Melandri (16), Laverty (14) and Torres (9).