WSBK: Thrilling season opener in Phililip Island as Rea and Haslem win epic race battles

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Race 1 –The opening race of the 2015 eni FIM Superbike World Championship was held in hot and sunny conditions at the Phillip Island circuit with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) taking the opening victory of the year after a titanic 22-lap fight with Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) and Chaz Davies (Aruba Ducati SBK), who completed an all-British podium. Results here

In stepping atop the podium for the sixteenth time in his career, Rea also scored his first top-3 finish at the Island . Furthermore, for the second year in a row the winner of race 1 was a rider on his first outing with new machinery.

The two WorldSBK rookies Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Deviles) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Superbike) impressed in their debut encounter in the series by finishing in fourth and fifth places, respectively. Former Moto2 rider Torres looked at times able to challenge for the podium, while reigning WSS Champion van der Mark slowed down his pace in the last quarter of the race.

Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) made a good recovery to end up sixth after running off track on lap 6, following an overtaking manoeuvre by van der Mark. Reigning Champion Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda World Superbike), Nico Terol (Althea Racing Team Ducati), Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) and Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) rounded out the top-10.

Lowes had a hard time catching up after being slowed down by a collision in the early stages of the race. Troy Bayliss (Aruba Ducati SBK) ran as high as 7th before eventually fading to 13th just ahead of local wildcard rider Jed Metcher (Race Center – Demolation Plus) who was elated at scoring 2 points on his WorldSBK debut.

Niccolò Canepa (Team Hero EBR) was the only faller, he was taken to the medical centre for further checks.

Haslam snatches victory from Rea at finish line

Davies is again third, van der Mark and Torres crash out of promising position

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Race 2 – The second race of the Swann Insurance Australian Round was another one to remember, given the thrilling finale that saw Leon Haslam (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) edging out Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) for the win at the finish line by just 0.010. The 31-year-old from Derby, England, enjoyed better drive out of the last turn and managed to get on the outside of Rea, eventually prevailing over his rival by the smallest margin. The two former team-mates are now tied at the top of the standings with 45 points apiece. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team) completed a solid weekend by again finishing in third place.

Ironically enough, the last time Haslam stepped atop the podium was in 2010 at Kyalami (Race 2), when he managed to defeat Rea by half a second.

Leon Haslam: “Yeah I am really happy with the way we operated this weekend and with the team. In Race 1 I made a small mistake which cost me the win but I felt I had a lot in reserve to go faster and the tyre was feeling really good. In Race 2 van der Mark had a really good pace but he was running too fast and I felt that by running at that pace the tyres might have had worn off a bit more. Then, when I made my move I didn’t feel I had the same reserve as the first race. I then made another small mistake and I went from first to third. I had to push very hard in the last two laps and it made it very difficult for me again. In the end we managed to get the win so that’s perfect.”

Jonathan Rea: “It’s really great to come out of here with 45 points, I didn’t think this was going to be the strongest track for the Kawasaki. The guys have worked very hard throughout the weekend on race pace. I would have shook the hand to who would have told me I would have done so well here. Obviously Kawasaki and the team have done a great job, but I admit the Aprilia was really fast on the straight. Anyway this is a great about the result and looking forward to Thailand.”

Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) was fourth at the chequered flag, ahead of Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda World Superbike), Nico Terol (Althea Racing Team Ducati), Randy de Puniet (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) and Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse), with six different manufacturers within the top-8.

Reigning World Supersport Champion Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) had his shot at the lead throughout the race, eventually dropping down to fourth in a single lap. The Dutchman then lost some more ground to the front runners before crashing out of turn 10 at the end of Lap 19, thankfully without injury. Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) also fell a lap earlier, losing the front of his RSV4 RF at Turn 1 on Lap 19 while he was running in fourth place.

Troy Bayliss (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati Superbike Team) started well, once again moving through the field making it as high as 7th until the triple champion entered the pits to change his front tyre on lap 14. He rejoined finishing outside of the points in 16th.

Niccolò Canepa (Team Hero EBR) was ruled unfit following his race 1 while Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) was forced to pull out of the race due to a technical problem at the end of lap 2, after starting the encounter from the pit-lane.

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