The final MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship race of the Yamaha Finance Australian Round ended with a drag race between Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK teammates Alex Lowes and Jonathan Rea. Rea had been leading the race until the latter stages before Lowes overtook him at Turn 1 with two laps to go.
It means Lowes claimed his first win for Kawasaki and his first WorldSBK win since Race 2 at Brno in 2018. The pair ran to the line nose-to-tail with the Englishman hanging on to take the win by just 0.037s from his teammate. Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) claimed his third podium of the weekend in his WorldSBK debut.
Rea had started the race from pole position but lost out to Lowes at Turn 1, with new Kawasaki rider sweeping around the outside, attempting to make gains at the start. Michael van der Mark (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team) also tried around the outside of Turn 2 to gain positions before Rea re-passed van der Mark soon after.
Five-time Champion Rea was controlling the pace at the front of the race in order to preserve tyre life around the demanding Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. There was a lead battle of more than ten riders in the first half of the race, and it looked as if Rea’s strategy was going to pay off but he was unable to stop Lowes overtaking him with two laps to go.
Lowes got into Rea’s slipstream down the start and finish straight before making a move on the inside of Turn 1. The pair were fighting hard for the next two laps with Rea looking to pass his teammate at the final corner – a move he successfully pulled off to win the Tissot Superpole Race. Lowes, however, was able to defend hard enough through the final corner. It looked like Rea was attempting to go around the outside of Lowes but was unable to make the move stick.
Redding was less than a second behind the top three as he claimed his third podium of the weekend. It means Redding matches Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) in securing three podiums in his debut weekend for the Ducati outfit, a feat Bautista achieved at Phillip Island in 2019. Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) finished in fifth place from 15th on the grid after a miraculous comeback. Bautista ended the race in sixth having stormed through from 14th on the grid, proving the potential of the brand new Honda.
Chilean rider Maximilian Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura) continued his impressive debut weekend with a seventh place finish. He earlier became the first Chilean rider to finish in the top ten of a WorldSBK race and looked impressive during Race 2 as he kept pace with the leading group. He finished less than five seconds off race winner Lowes, proving himself to be a revelation in Australia.
French rider Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) had an eventful race; eighth place not telling the full story. He showed quick pace at the start of the race and was fighting in the leading group, even taking the lead at Turn 4 on Lap 9 as he overtook Rea. His top-speed disadvantage showed on the start and finish straight although he was re-passed by Rea shortly after.
A late-race incident with Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team) meant Baz fell down the order and finished just ahead of Sandro Cortese (OUTDO Kawasaki TPR) in ninth place. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) finished tenth after an incident on Lap 4 of the race as he went off the track and fell down the order. He was ahead of Xavi Fores (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), who also had an incident at the same time as Sykes, and Leon Haslam (Team HRC). Haslam was involved in an incident with Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team GOELEVEN) on Lap 2, with Rinaldi not being classified in the rac while Haslam finished 12th.
Takumi Takahashi (MIE Racing Althea Honda Team), Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) and Razgatlioglu all retired from the race while Rinaldi was not classified. There was a curtailed starting grid as Eugene Laverty (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team) and Leon Camier (Barni Racing Team) were all ruled out of the race.
P1 – Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
“I feel fantastic. Been a great first weekend with the team. The race was tricky because the temperatures were so high, it made the grip quite low. But I really enjoyed it! I needed to be patient all throughout the race because people were banging into me, hitting me wide. Baz hit me a few times, then Toprak, then Michael. Fun racing but it was hard to find a rhythm, I was back in 8th then Baz came past me, Alvaro came past me. All the time I felt quite strong on the bike. I was focussed on being smooth, looking after the tyre and coming forward at the end. The plan paid off, it doesn’t always happen like that. Really happy to get my first win with Kawasaki Racing Team, I’m going to enjoy it tonight before recharging my batteries for Qatar.”
P2 – Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
“Race 2 was strange because I didn’t do 22 laps yesterday so I didn’t know what to expect from the tyre in the race. We had done 22 laps on a tyre during the tests but never in one stint and with this high a track temperature. I was riding so slow at the front and doing all the work but it seemed like no-one wanted to come through and do the work. he guys behind me could all manage their tyres better than me and they had the slipstream. Last year we were 15s from the race win so I feel more competitive now. We could have given up a lot of points this weekend after a 220kmph crash in Race 1 but I was able to walk away relatively unhurt. I’m looking forward to Qatar because today we did the best that we could.”
P3 – Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Ducati Racing)
“I’ve been on the podium three times, on two occasions I finished within a tenth of a second off the winner: not bad for my first Superbike weekend. I gave it everything that I had but my biggest problem was trying to manage the front tyre in the races. We were strong and the bike worked well. We need to improve in some small areas but we’re in the battle for the win. We’re only a tenth off the win here and that’s not bad going but I was struggling in Race 2 with the tyre temperature. I learned so much this weekend and that’s the biggest thing. I’m satisfied and confident after this weekend because I held my own this weekend and that’s what was important.”
Top 6 following WorldSBK Race 2.
- Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
- Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki racing Team WorldSBK) +0.037
- Scott Redding (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) +0.849
- Michael van der Mark (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team) +1.784
- Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) +4.278
- Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) +4.322
Championship Standings after Race 2, Round 1
1. Alex Lowes (GBR) Kawasaki (51 points)
2. Scott Redding (GBR) Ducati (39 points)
3. Toprak Razgatlioglu (TUR) Yamaha (34 points)