Three action-packed races at Phillip Island produced three different winners for the first time in World Superbikes history with the combined winning margins totalling just over a tenth of a second.
Toprak Razgatlıoğlu took the first victory of the season in Race 1 while reigning world champion Jonathan Rea striked back in the Superpole Race and his teammate Alex Lowes rounded up the weekend with the win in Race 2.
Race 1 – Debut delight for Razgatlıoğlu as Rea crashes out
The opening encounter saw a four-way battle for victory with the second-closest podium in World Superbikes history and Toprak Razgatlıoğlu winning on his Yamaha debut.
Drama ignited early in the race when polesitter Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and reigning world champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) had a coming together in the fight for the lead on the opening lap. While Sykes stayed upright, Rea was forced through the gravel and re-joined the circuit in last place. The Kawasaki rider showed strong pace and made up position after position before his race came to a premature end five laps later when he lost the front at Turn 8.
Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) passed Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team) at the start of Lap 2 for second place but could not challenge Sykes out front while the Yamaha duo of van der Mark and Toprak Razgatlıoğlu (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Official Team) lined up behind them and Leon Haslam (Team HRC) overtook Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) for fifth.
With 18 laps to go, Baz ran wide, allowing Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team) through for sixth before the Brit overtook Haslam two laps later and the order out front briefly settled.
The plot thickened when Redding took the lead from Sykes down the home straight with 11 laps to go and van der Mark followed through swiftly for second place. Sykes continued to drop positions as Razgatlıoğlu, Lowes, and Haslam followed suit and demoted the BMW rider from first to sixth within two laps.
Razgatlıoğlu made his move with 8 laps to go and took both Redding and van der Mark in one go with his teammate sneaking through into second with him.
The front runners started to exchange punches with Haslam gradually falling behind and a close leading group of four entered the final lap. Razgatlıoğlu established a marginal gap that allowed him to hold on to victory while the positions behind him were decided by a drag to the line that saw Lowes in second from Redding and van der Mark, the first four covered by just 0.137 seconds.
Behind them, Haslam hung on to fifth, in the end only half a second ahead of his teammate Álvaro Bautista (Team HRC) who came through from 15th, ahead of top independent rider Baz in seventh, Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) in eighth, and polesitter Sykes who eventually took the flag in ninth, just holding off Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GoEleven) who completed the top 10.
Superpole Race – Rea strikes back
The Superpole Race at Phillip Island went down to the wire as Jonathan Rea denied Toprak Razgatlıoğlu a second consecutive victory with a decisive move at the final corner.
Rea took the lead at the lights but was shadowed by Razgatlıoğlu from the get-go while a five-way battle between Sykes, van der Mark, Baz, Redding and Lowes emerged close behind them with the positions chopping and changing.
Redding started to reel in the front two and closed the gap with eight laps to go, a leading group of three now stretching away. The gap did not last long though as both Rea and Razgatlıoğlu ran wide and invited Redding to an ambitious move down the inside, sitting up Razgatlıoğlu and making contact with Rea. The Kawasaki rider managed to stay in front, but the pack was back together.
Redding failed to challenge for the lead and soon found himself under pressure from Razgatlıoğlu, the pair exchanging positions multiple times and bringing Lowes and van der Mark back into the mix.
Lowes managed to break away from his former teammate and established himself in fourth while Razgatlıoğlu took second for good with four laps remaining.
The Yamaha rider briefly took the lead from Rea on the penultimate lap, but the reigning world champion responded immediately and led a group of four into the final lap.
Razgatlıoğlu managed to hit the front again and looked to make it two wins in a row, but a slide in the final corner allowed Rea back through and the Kawasaki rider accelerated to a close victory, 0.067 seconds ahead of his Turkish rival with Redding coming out the slip stream to finish a further 0.005 second behind.
Lowes crossed the line in fourth in front of van der Mark and Sykes while Baz again finished top independent rider in seventh ahead of Haslam and Rinaldi who took the last available point in ninth.
Race 2 – Lowes victorious on his first weekend with Kawasaki
The action in Australia ended the way it started with a drag to the line and for the first time ever, a World Superbikes weekend featured three different winners as Alex Lowes beat his teammate to victory.
Van der Mark had an outstanding start from fifth on the grid and took the lead going into Turn 1 before polesitter Rea hit the front on Lap 2.
With 21 laps remaining, Haslam failed to stop his Honda down into Turn 10, sending himself as well as Rinaldi into the gravel and reducing the leading group to seven riders with Rea, van der Mark, Razgatlıoğlu, Lowes, Redding, Baz, and Sykes.
Rea controlled the pace at the top of the group while punches were exchanged behind him which brought Xavi Forés (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), Davies and Bautista back into the mix.
With 18 laps to go, Forés and Sykes were involved in an incident at Stoner corner that took them out of the front fight while Baz started to emerge as a rider on a mission and kept climbing up the order.
Lowes sent Razgatlıoğlu wide further behind in the pack with 12 laps to go, but out front, the fight for the lead turned into a neck-and-neck battle between Baz and Rea who kept swapping positions.
With eight laps remaining, Lowes overtook van der Mark and Baz in one go, diving down the inside at the end of the home straight, and claimed second place with van der Mark following through into third.
The front runners kept exchanging positions and with three laps to go, a technical issue on Razgatlıoğlu’s R1 sent Baz wide into the gravel and Razgatlıoğlu into retirement.
Lowes overtook his teammate on the penultimate lap and van der Mark capitalised on Rea running wide with Redding hanging in at the back of the group.
Rea claimed second back and started to chase Lowes down while Redding and van der Mark emerged in a battle that took them out of victory contention.
The two Kawasaki riders went into the final corner separated by nothing and Rea pulled out of the slip stream for a drag to the line, but it was not enough to beat his teammate who claimed the race win and the championship lead.
Behind them, Redding fought off van der Mark for the final podium position ahead of Davies, Bautista, and Maximilian Scheib (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) who had a brilliant race to finish top independent rider in front of Baz in eight, Sandro Cortese (Outdo Kawasaki TPR) and Sykes completing the top 10
Source: motorport radio