Marco Melandri opened his 2018 WorldSBK title account with victory in race one at Phillip Island as reigning champion Jonathan Rea hit tyre trouble and could only muster fifth place in Australia.
An early push from Tom Sykes on the Kawasaki saw him pile into the lead from pole position, taking out an advantage of over a second early in the 22-lap contest. It was almost to last the full race but a factory Ducati rider would have the final say.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) closed in on early leader Sykes, with Marco Melandri’s Aruba Ducati a glowing red comet in his slipstream as they chased down the number 66 Kawasaki.
Rea closed in to within half a second before Sykes moved it out to a second again with a third of the race still to go.
Melandri eventually passed Rea into the Honda hairpin and set about reducing the gap to Sykes to half a second, then less than two tenths, with the final pass coming down the main straight and into Doohan corner.
Sykes had nothing for Melandri after that, with the Italian riding out of his skin as he piled on the pace to go 0.911 seconds clear with two laps to go.
He took an eventual advantage of 1.180 seconds. This was Melandri’s first WorldSBK win at Phillip Island, and the 21st of his career.
Sykes finished second and Rea looked set for third - until his pace fell off a cliff, looking down at the rear of his machine at one stage, and he finished fifth.
The fight for third was between Chaz Davies (Aruba Ducati) and Xavi Fores (Barni Ducati) with the factory rider taking the advantage over the line.
Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes placed sixth, Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda) seventh after a Superpole crash and front row starter Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) eighth.
The top ten was rounded out by Michael van der Mark - who looked furious as he walked down pitlane after the race - and Leandro Mercado (Orelac Kawasaki). Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda) was 12th, behind Loris Baz (Gulf BMW Racing Team), with PJ Jacobsen (TripleM Honda) 16th.
Lorenzo Savadori did not start after fracturing his collarbone in a Superpole crash. He will not ride tomorrow but has a month before the next round at Buriram to begin recovery.