Phillip Island saw the new kids on the WorldSBK block stand-out, with plenty of talking points for the five new recruits in the blue riband class for 2020.
It was a weekend of success stories w With Scott Redding leading the way with a hat-trick of podiums, there were other magical performances down the field.
Redding’s return to the world stage got off to a healthy start as the British rider stormed to three third-place finishes across the Yamaha Finance Australian Round.
The 27-year-old led in race one before finishing just 0.041s behind eventual race winner Toprak Razgatlioglu (PATA YAMAHA WorldSBK Official Team). Second in the Championship standings with 39 points and just 12 behind leader Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Redding can be happy with his first event performance, as he seeks a return to winning ways soon.
The next-best rookie in the standings is Chilean Maximilian Scheib (ORELAC Racing VerdNatura), who was one of the stand-out performers in Race 2 on ‘The Island’ as he stormed to seventh.
The first Chilean rider to achieve a top eight finish, Scheib lies 11th in the Championship standings and showed a good pace in Race 1 too, before an off-track excursion left him down in 15th.
During the first outing, Scheib’s fastest lap would have put him sixth overall in comparison to his rivals, making the South American sensation a revelation to enjoy throughout 2020.
The GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team duo of Garrett Gerloff and Federico Caricasulo shone brightly at Phillip Island at various points. Gerloff made an incredible getaway in race one and was up to seventh in no time from his 17th place starting position.
However, tyre life meant the American faded to 14th, whilst teammate Federico Caricasulo started and finished in 12th. Race 1onewas the only point-scoring race for the team that achieved a podium at Phillip Island in 2019, as Gerloff was injured in Warm Up crash, ruling him out of the races, whilst Federico Caricasulo was 14th in the Tissot Superpole Race and crashed in race two.
Finally, Takumi Takahashi (MIE Racing Althea HONDA Team) made his full-time debut in WorldSBK and despite coming away empty handed, he made plenty of progress from day one of testing to the final laps of racing action. Takahashi finished the Tissot Superpole Race in 15th but will hope to be back on the pace come Jerez at the end of March.
Rookie rides in WorldSSP were one of the key talking points after Phillip Island with Andrea Locatelli claiming pole position and the race win, leading all but one lap, to show he is a force to be reckoned with during the season.
Locatelli beat two WorldSSP Champions in Tissot Superpole to take pole position ahead of Randy Krummenacher (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) in a sensational debut performance.
Italian rider Locatelli had set the pace during the Philip Island Official Test and continued his rapid pace into the race weekend; topping two out of three Free Practice sessions, Tissot Superpole and winning the race. The only lap he didn’t lead was when he took his mandatory pit stop, allowing riders who took a later stop to temporarily leapfrog him; even here, Locatelli showed a cool head and dealt with the extra step in perfect order.
Locatelli was not the only rookie to shine Down Under though, with South African rider Steven Odendaal (EAB Ten Kate Racing) being the second-highest place rookie in seventh, finishing ahead of Spaniard Manuel Gonzalez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team). Odendaal had qualified in seventh place, finishing where he started the race, while Gonzalez made up five places during the 16-lap battle. The performances of both Odendaal and Gonzalez show rookies can mix it up in both Superpole and the race.
Turkish sensation Can Öncü (Turkish Racing Team) picked up five points on his WorldSSP debut. Öncü started and finished the race in 11th as the Moto3™ race winner made his mark in the Championship. Öncü was the penultimate rookie point scorer as Andy Verdoia (bLU cRU WorldSSP by MS Racing) finished in 15th place to take one point on his debut. Verdoia made his way to 15th after starting in 18th place for the opening race of the season.
Galang Hendra Pratama (bLU cRU WorldSSP by MS Racing) was the last classified finisher in the race. The Indonesian rider came into the weekend on the back foot after a visa issue meant he missed the two-day Official Test leading up to the weekend. On a unique track, with fast, flowing corners and on tyres that required management throughout the race, this would’ve undoubtedly impacted on Hendra Pratama’s pace.
The final rookie in the World Supersport field was Philipp Oettl, who did not finish the race after retiring on Lap 6, following a crash at Turn 2 taking him out of the podium battle. His Superpole performance was enough to put him sixth on the grid, something Oettl will be able to take solace from. Although the race result will be forgetful for Oettl, the pace shown in Superpole will give the German rider confidence.