Phillip Island WSBK: Melandri passes Sykes to win opener

Phillip Island WSBK: Melandri passes Sykes to win opener
By: Lewis Duncan , Journalist
Feb 24, 2018, 5:00 AM

Ducati's Marco Melandri drew first blood in World Superbike in 2018 after beating pole man Tom Sykes to victory at Phillip Island.

Anthony West, EAB Antwest Racing
Eugene Laverty, Milwaukee Aprilia
Sandro Cortese, Kallio Racing
Randy Krummenacher, BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team
Thomas Gradinger, NRT
Eugene Laverty, Milwaukee Aprilia
Alex Lowes, Pata Yamaha
Chaz Davies, Racing-Ducati SBK Team
Jordi Torres, MV Agusta Reparto Corse

Sykes launched off the line to go a second clear of the field at the start, while Kawasaki teammate Jonathan Rea brushed off his sixth-place qualifying result to move into second at the first corner.

The KRT rider continued to lead for much of the race, with Sykes extending his advantage to almost two seconds, while Melandri slotted into third and began closing them down.

Rea began to mount the pressure on Sykes by mid distance, with the reigning world champion scything his teammate's advantage down to under a second.

However, Rea began to struggle, several looks rear-ward suggesting a possible tyre issue. This allowed Melandri to ease ahead at Turn 4 with eight laps to go and clear away from him.

The Italian hounded Sykes over the next few tours, before blasting past into the first turn. Quickly building a slight gap, Melandri remained unchallenged to claim his second Ducati win.

Behind, Melandri's teammate Chaz Davies passed the ailing Rea on the penultimate lap to take third, and held Barni Racing's and Sunday pole man Xavi Fores at bay to complete the podium.

Rea clung onto fifth at the chequered flag, with Yamaha's Alex Lowes recovering from a scrappy opening lap and winning a hard battle with teammate Michael van der Mark to take sixth ahead of Honda's Leon Camier.

Eugene Laverty was unable to convert his front row start to a podium, the Aprilia rider slipping to eighth at the chequered flag ahead of van der Mark and Orelac Racing's Leandro Mercado.

Loris Baz ended his WSBK return 11th on the sole BMW in the field, the Frenchman prevailing in an exciting clash with Honda's Jake Gagne, Puccetti's Toprak Razgatlioglu and Go Eleven rider Roman Ramos.

Ondrej Jezek brought his Guandalini Yamaha home in 15th to claim the final point, with Triple M Honda's PJ Jacobsen 16th on his WSBK debut.

MV Agusta's Jordi Torres dropped out of the battle for the top 10 with a late technical issue, while Yonny Hernandez crashed out of his maiden WSBK outing with nine laps remaining. Wildcards Wayne Maxwell, Troy Herfoss and Daniel Falzon also retired.

Aprilia's Lorenzo Savadori was a non-starter after fracturing his left collarbone in a crash during Superpole, and will sit out Sunday's race also.

Race Results:

1 italy Marco Melandri  Ducati 23m40.354s
2 united_kingdom Tom Sykes  Kawasaki 1.180
3 united_kingdom Chaz Davies  Ducati 9.265
4 spain Xavi Fores  Ducati 9.821
5 united_kingdom Jonathan Rea  Kawasaki 13.896
6 united_kingdom Alex Lowes  Yamaha 17.028
7 united_kingdom Leon Camier  Honda 21.514
8 ireland Eugene Laverty  Aprilia 23.662
9 netherlands Michael van der Mark  Yamaha 27.430
10 argentina Leandro Mercado  Kawasaki 27.446
11 france Loris Baz  BMW 27.748
12 united_states Jake Gagne  Honda 28.466
13 turkey Toprak Razgatlioglu  Kawasaki 30.000
14 spain Roman Ramos  Kawasaki 53.619
15 czech_republic Ondrej Jezek  Yamaha 1'02.682
16 united_states Patrick Jacobsen  Honda 1'09.775
Ret spain Jordi Torres  MV Agusta 3 laps
Ret    Troy Herfoss  Honda 3 laps
Ret  colombia Yonny Hernandez  Kawasaki 9 laps
Ret    Daniel Falzon  Yamaha 13 laps
Ret    Wayne Maxwell  Yamaha 21 laps
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WSBK makes Phillip Island pitstop mandatory after tyre issues

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