The 2018 World Superbike Championship got underway this weekend at the Phillip Island circuit, a track just south of Melbourne that overlooks the Bass Strait.The big news for this season involved limiting – or increasing – rev limits on motorcycles to even the field. With Kawasaki and Ducati finishing on the podium 72 times out of 78 in 2017, World Superbike decided to make some changes.
The biggest was the decrease in revs for the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, which Jonathan Rea has dominated on the past three seasons, winning three back-to-back titles. Last season he finished on the podium at every race except for two, which included 16 wins.Following are the rev limits for WorldSBK at the start of the season:
MV Agusta 14,700
Did it make a difference? Well, Ducati 1199 R Panigale and Kawasaki machinery once again dominated the podium with the usual suspects. Unlike last year’s opening round when Rea completed the double, this year’s Phillip Island double win went to Marco Melandri on the Aruba.it Racing Ducati.Melandri earned Saturday’s race 1 by 1.180 seconds ahead of Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Sykes, the 2013 WorldSBK Champion who claimed the pole, and 9.265 seconds ahead of the other Aruba.it Racing Ducati rider, Chaz Davies.Things were much tighter in race 2 when Melandri beat Rea to the line by 0.021 of a second. Claiming the final podium was Barni Racing Team Ducati pilot Xaxi Fores. During race two, Race Direction demanded a tire change for safety reasons, and Melandri had a near-perfect pit stop to rejoin the race in first.This was Melandri’s 22nd World Superbike win, and he now has a perfect 50 points after the first of 13 rounds. Sykes is second, 17 points back, and Rea is 19 behind. The riders return to action March 23-25 at Thailand’s Chang International Circuit for round two of 2018 WSBK.“It’s been a crazy race,” Marco Melandri said after race 2. “The tire change made it impossible to come up with a strategy, as many riders could be fast for 10 laps. It was a big fight, with many aggressive maneuvers.“We still tried to look after the tires after the pit-stop, and in the last five laps we found our rhythm. Towards the end, it was difficult to pass Rea under braking so I decided to focus on the final sprint and catch the slipstream out of the last corner, in which we were particularly fast, and the plan worked. I’m super happy and can’t wait to race at Buriram.”As for the Americans, Red Bull Honda’s Jake Gagne finished 12th and 13th respectively, and TripleM Honda World Superbike’s PJ Jacobsen finished 16th and 14th.Following are the official race recaps courtesy of WorldSBK.com.
2018 Phillip Island World Superbike Results, Race 1 Recap
Melandri put in a stunning ride at Phillip Island to win the opening race of 2018, stalking his way through the podium places before being able to catch and pass earlier race leader and pole sitter Sykes.Melandri adds the victory to an illustrious list of glory accrued at the Australian track, including MotoGP and 250 World Championship wins. Behind Sykes, who took second, Davies completed the podium – slicing past reigning Champion Rea right at the end to begin his season on the rostrum after some late drama for Rea.Sykes bolted from pole and the Brit was in clear air for much of the race, with an impressive start for teammate Rea from further back catapulting him up into P2 to chase down his sister green machine. But Melandri made for close company for the reigning Champion throughout, stalking Rea before passing him and then heading off to chase down Sykes.The Italian got past the Brit with enough time left to pull away for a safer win – but Sykes held firm in second to take only his fourth podium at the track since 2009; making a huge statement of intent in the title fight. Meanwhile behind him, teammate Rea began to suffer with issues and his pace dropped.From a seemingly safe podium finish, the reigning Champion faded quickly – with Davies and fellow Panigale rider Fores soon on the scene and both soon past Rea. Rea followed Fores over the line for fifth, but Fores did make it into parc ferme, taking the honors as top Independent Team rider in the first race of the season and getting an early lead on some of his key competitors for that title.Meanwhile for sixth, a stunning Yamaha duel saw Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team’s Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes side-by-side, but the Dutchman began to suffer in the latter stages after his early charge and dropped back, leaving Lowes in P6. Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) made progress in the race after a crash in Tissot-Superpole and was able to come home in seventh with a late charge, breaking free of van der Mark and Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia).Laverty had a more difficult race day to come home P8 after being third fastest on Friday, with van der Mark taking ninth at the flag and just staying ahead of Leandro Mercado, who completed the top 10 for Orelac Racing Verdnatura – an impressive first race of 2018 for the Argentinean.Loris Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team) took eleventh and was close to the top ten on his return to WorldSBK despite a heavy crash on Friday, with American Jake Gagne debuting full time for Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team in 12th. Toprak Razgalioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) got his WorldSBK career off to a solid start in P13, ahead of Roman Romas (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) and Ondrej Jezek (Guandalini Racing).
2018 Phillip Island World Superbike Results, Race 2 Recap
After the announcement on Saturday that Race 2 of #AusWorldSBK would be a flag to flag with a maximum of 12 laps allowed on one set of tires, the scene was set for a showdown with a difference and Sunday didn’t disappoint. After a huge fight at the front off the line, the battle incredibly resumed full force after the stop – and by the end, a three-rider battle to decide the podium order saw Melandri complete the double by just hundredths of a second.Off the line it was Rea who took the holeshot, but the field remained tightly packed together in a close fight throughout the top 10. Laverty was then able to get past and get away, pushing hard at the front in an impressive show of pace, but it wasn’t to be as the Irishman then crashed out of contention and left the big group to fight it out at the front.After Laverty’s fall, Rea, Melandri, Davies, Camier, Sykes, Fores (Barni Racing Team) and Yamaha duo van der Mark and Lowes were locked in all-out war – and the laps were ticking down towards the mandatory time to make their pit stop.The first three riders to pit out the lead group were Fores, Rea and van der Mark, with the trio piling into pitlane as the battle remained raging at the front. Davies, Melandri, Lowes and Camier kept it pinned as the three former leaders in pitlane waited the mandatory pit intervention time out, before next time around Davies led the four of the second wave in. Heading out pitlane as the other three blasted down the main straight, the group incredibly reformed almost exactly as it had been but with Davies ahead – and there were just nine uninterrupted laps left.If the fight wasn’t enough drama already, there was more soon on the way as Race 1 podium finisher and perennial title contender Davies suddenly slid out the lead – having just gained a sliver of daylight between himself and the chasing pack. Rider ok but unable to rejoin, that left Independent Team rider Fores leading the way, with Rea, Sykes, Melandri, van der Mark, Lowes and Camier concertinaing and tousling for position in the tight battle behind.As a gap began to appear and Rea appeared to have been able to pull away, the big mover was Melandri and the Italian was far from done. After his stunning Race 1 win managed to perfection, Race 2 was a different animal and the Italian sliced his way through towards the front, passing Sykes into Turn 1 and the Englishman then dropping back slightly as he got stood up. As the last lap dawned, it was Rea leading Melandri and Fores, and the stage was set.Not quite close enough to make it work into Turn 1, Melandri kept his head down and edged closer to the Kawasaki ahead of him – not quite able to make a move at the hairpin or Lukey Heights, but tagged right onto the back of Rea. Tucking in behind the Kawasaki and catapulting himself out the final corner, the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati rider slipstreamed it to perfection before pulling out alongside Rea, incredibly just able to take it over the line with a photo finish so close, the Ducati box put the pause on their celebrations until the result was confirmed.Fores completed the podium, with Sykes putting together another solid result at the Island – following his best ever result at the track the day before – to come home fourth. Fifth was another good haul of points for Lowes, who crossed the line ahead of Camier and van der Mark.Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) took eighth and got some points on the board after retiring from Race 1, ahead of Loris Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team) on his returning weekend and a first top ten result for rookie Razgatlioglu.Roman Ramos (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) kept his reputation for consistency going in P11, just ahead of fellow Independent Team rider Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing Verdnatura). American Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) took thirteenth after bouncing back from a crash earlier in the race, with PJ Jacobsen (TripleM Honda World Superbike Team) and Laverty, able to rejoin but two laps down, completing the fastest 15.2018 Phillip Island World Superbike Results, Race 1:
Michael van der Mark
2018 Phillip Island World Superbike Results, Race 2