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WorldSBK stunners get new season off to a flying start

Monday, February 26 2018

A pair of stunning races for the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship got the 2018 season off to a stunning start at Australia's Phillip Island last weekend (24-25 February).

Pre-season talk had reigning three time champion Jonathan Rea down as an unsurprising favourite once more, but all predictions were blown out of the water by a mesmeric display by Ducati's Marco Melandri, who scooped a double victory.

The highlight was a drag to the line at the end of the second race, which saw Melandri edge Rea to the line by just 0.021s to complete his double.

In the opening contest, Melandri fought his way past the Kawasaki duo of Rea and Tom Sykes to win by just over a second while Rea struggled with tyres and fell back to fifth place, allowing Sykes to secure second and Chaz Davies third.

The second affair was a gripper, with tyre issues ensuring drama throughout. Eugene Laverty had created a strong early lead and was well set for victory having also set fastest lap, but he crashed into the gravel and created a nine bike battle for the lead before mandatory pit stops (to counter the tyre issues).

Xavi Fores led the race after the pit stops, but Rea and Melandri were fighting back into contention. Melandri powered passed Sykes while Rea was closing down on Fores, with the pair passing the Spaniard with three laps remaining. Starting the penultimate lap, Melandri passed Rea briefly, only for the champion to force his way back past.

Undeterred, Melandri made his move exiting the final corner on the final lap, out-dragging the Kawasaki to the finish line by less than a bike's length to complete the double, with Fores taking third to take only his second WorldSBK career podium.

Melandri thus leads the championship standings after the Australian round, with Sykes second, 17 points behind, and two ahead of Rea in third. Fores is fourth, while strong performances from Brits Alex Lowes and Leon Camier mean they lie fifth and sixth ahead of Chaz Davies.

The next round of WorldSBK takes place in Thailand in a month's time (23-25 March).

The only UK round of the series takes place at Donington Park on 25-27 May, with tickets available starting from £28 for adults, while discounted tickets for teenagers aged 13-15 and free entry for those aged 12 and under makes for an ideal family weekend out! For more information click here