Melandri wins WSBK opener at Phillip Island

Daniel Herrero

Saturday 24th February, 2018 - 4:29pm


Marco Melandri

Marco Melandri has overcome the factory Kawasakis to win the first race of the 2018 Superbike World Championship at Phillip Island.

Melandri trailed Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea for the first half of the 22-lap race but rode into the lead at the start of Lap 19 and went on to win by just over a second.

Sykes took second and Chaz Davies came from further back to also make the podium in a race run in overcast conditions.

Having qualified on pole, Sykes led the field away despite a challenge from Melandri into the first corner.

The Ducati rider had to get out of the move, allowing a fast-starting Rea to slip past at Southern Loop and make a Kawasaki Racing Team one-two.

Sykes skipped away to a 1.599s lead after four laps as the field surprisingly became somewhat strung out.

Melandri, however, stuck with Rea and made his move at the Turn 4 Hairpin on Lap 15, by which time then-fourth placed Xavi Fores was more than five seconds behind.

Trailing the leader by just under a second by that stage, Melandri caught Sykes over the next two laps before using a slipstream to get past on Gardner Straight with four laps remaining.

The Italian never looked back as he took his first WorldSBK race win at Phillip Island.

“It’s amazing,” said Melandri.

“Superbike, I was missing winning on this track. I won in all the other classes – MotoGP, 250cc, 125cc – so it’s a special win for me.

“With the first race of the season it’s something unbelievable. The team did an awesome job and I’m so happy.”

Team-mate Davies made it two factory Ducatis on the podium, having prevailed in a battle with Fores on the satellite Barni Ducati.

The Brit might have thought he had earned fourth place but Rea slowed dramatically in the closing stages and was passed by both Davies and Fores in consecutive corners at the end of Lap 21.

Rea, who may have run out of rear tyre life, lost bulk time on the final lap to finish 4.075s behind Fores in fifth.

The top 10 was rounded out by Alex Lowes, Leon Camier, Eugene Laverty, Michael van der Mark, and Leandro Mercado.

It was a tough day for the three Australia wildcards, none of whom made the finish.

Wayne Maxwell bit the dust when he crashed Yamaha at Lukey Heights on Lap 2, while Daniel Falzon (Yamaha) and Troy Herfoss (Honda) both succumbed to mechanical problems.

Earlier, Sykes’ pole position tied him Australian Troy Corser as the most prolific pole-sitter in WorldSBK history.

Friday fast man Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) was declared unfit to start the race after breaking his left collarbone in a crash at Siberia during Superpole 2.

The Yamaha Finance Australian Round concludes tomorrow with Race 2 from 1500 local time/AEDT, with Fores starting from first position and Melandri ninth.

Results: Race 1, Australian Round

Pos Num Rider Nat Bike Laps Time/Gap
1 33 M. MELANDRI ITA Ducati Panigale R 22 33:40.354
2 66 T. SYKES GBR Kawasaki ZX-10RR 22 +0:01.180
3 7 C. DAVIES GBR Ducati Panigale R 22 +0:09.265
4 12 X. FORES ESP Ducati Panigale R 22 +0:09.821
5 1 J. REA GBR Kawasaki ZX-10RR 22 +0:13.896
6 22 A. LOWES GBR Yamaha YZF R1 22 +0:17.028
7 2 L. CAMIER GBR Honda CBR1000RR 22 +0:21.514
8 50 E. LAVERTY IRL Aprilia RSV4 RF 22 +0:23.662
9 60 M. VAN DER MARK NED Yamaha YZF R1 22 +0:27.430
10 36 L. MERCADO ARG Kawasaki ZX-10RR 22 +0:27.446
11 76 L. BAZ FRA BMW S 1000 RR 22 +0:27.748
12 45 J. GAGNE USA Honda CBR1000RR 22 +0:28.466
13 54 T. RAZGATLIOGLU TUR Kawasaki ZX-10RR 22 +0:30.000
14 40 R. RAMOS ESP Kawasaki ZX-10RR 22 +0:53.619
15 37 O. JEZEK CZE Yamaha YZF R1 22 +1:02.682
16 99 P. JACOBSEN USA Honda CBR1000RR 22 +1:09.775
DNF 81 J. TORRES ESP MV Agusta 1000 F4 19 +3 Laps
DNF 17 T. HERFOSS AUS Honda CBR1000RR 19 +3 Laps
DNF 68 Y. HERNANDEZ COL Kawasaki ZX-10RR 13 +9 Laps
DNF 25 D. FALZON AUS Yamaha YZF R1 9 +13 Laps
DNF 47 W. MAXWELL AUS Yamaha YZF R1 1 +21 Laps comment policy

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