For 2018, WorldSBK bosses decided to change the rules on maximum engine revs. For many reasons, but mainly to level the playing field for teams like the only two fully official efforts who have done all the recent winning – Kawasaki and Ducati – and all the others who are varying degrees of semi-official or almost private.
In winter testing, Rea and Sykes were on fire, and Ducati struggling a bit, the rest about the same.
Come the unique Phillip Island circuit, it was a little different. But just a little, as Ducati seemed to have the upper hand on Kawasaki – because of the fixed internal gear ratios acting on the lower power outputs, as much as anything else.
But reigning champion Jonathan Rea almost certainly lost a race win in the second contest when Melandri’s Ducati exited the fast final corner harder, slipstreamed him for a very short time and then burst past just in time to pass over the line.
Thrilling stuff, great for the fans, but Rea was not going anywhere near the idea that with 1,100rpm back again, the result would have been different.
“I can’t think like that,” he told bikesportnews.com. “Some tracks will suit us, some tracks will suit others, unfortunately our fourth gear is too tall. I do not blame the rules, and I enjoyed the race and it was quite fun to have a pit stop.”
In general, the opinion among Rea and Sykes’s peers is that – at PI at least – the KRT duo had to work harder for what they got.
But everybody, especially Rea, knows it is too early to make a judgement on whether the new rev limits have done their job.
“Marco has always been strong in PI and Michael was at the front but he has always been strong here. We will see. We need four or five rounds until everybody finds their place. And the championship finds its rhythm. Right now, it is not the rules; it is nothing,” said Rea.
“It is Phillip Island… It is a special place to throw up an amazing race with lots of riders involved. Seven riders in just over three seconds is great but we should reserve conclusions until after some more races.”
Thailand next, and a circuit with a design and expected weather conditions so different from PI that it may as well come from another dimension, never mind a different country.