WorldSBK Phillip Island: Rea ends win drought with flag-to-flag

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Strategy secured a long-awaited victory for Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea as he claimed the WorldSBK race one honours at Phillip Island.

Rea climbed to the top step of the rostrum for the first time since Estoril after a mid-race swap to slick Pirellis. Pata Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu and KRT teammate Alex Lowes completing the celebrations after the flag-to-flag action.

The sun made an appearance over a wet Phillip Island track as race one prepared. Aruba.it Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista heading the Superbike grid with Rea and Lowes alongside, the track expected to dry quickly in the high winds and improving conditions.

Lights out for 22 laps and it was Bautista from Razgatlioglu at the head of the pack as Lowes slipped back to fifth with a poor start. Pata Yamaha’s Andrea Locatelli initially battling the KRT man before Lowes hit back and returned to the wheels of his teammate.

Motocorsa’s Axel Bassani claimed sixth from GRT Yamaha’s Garrett Gerloff as the opening lap unfolded through Lukey Heights, Honda’s Xavi Vierge, Puccetti Kawasaki’s Lucas Mahias and BMW’s Michael van der Mark completing the top ten after the initial action.

Top Independent rider Bassani was storming through to fifth next time around as Vierge climbed to seventh. Rea on the wheels of Razgatlioglu in the battle for second before the Northern Irishman capitalised at the start of lap three.

Rea was in charge by Miller Corner as his teammate set the fastest lap so far. Bautista struggling in the conditions as he dropped into the path of Razgatlioglu with Lowes narrowly behind the pair.

2021’s Champion bettered this year’s recipient before Lowes replicated the move moments later. Bautista dropping from first to fourth in the space of two laps before the Ducati, albeit briefly, began to fight back.

Razgatlioglu was in charge, with a fastest lap, by the sixth revolution. Rea just a fraction of a second behind with Lowes pulling a half second gap on Bautista for third. The leading Kawasaki was back in front halfway round the next lap with Lowes following suit as Razgatlioglu found himself demoted to the final podium position. The number 22 bettering for the lead down the home straight as lap eight ignited.

Bonovo’s Loris Baz was up to tenth from Scott Redding as van der Mark sent the second factory BMW through the gravel. Honda’s Tetsuta Nagashima running 12th from Kyle Smith on the Pedercini Kawasaki with Xavi Fores and Michael Rinaldi completing the points positions. MIE Honda’s Hafizh Syahrin the first to pit for slick tyres on lap nine.

Rea set the new fastest lap as he chased his teammate out front. Bautista through to third and circulating six tenths off the KRT pairing with the R1 just a tenth behind. Bassani the best of the rest but over seven seconds adrift of the leading battle.

Rea and Razgatlioglu hit the pits as Lowes and Bautista stayed out. The Brit over two seconds in charge with Garrett Gerloff inheriting third from over ten seconds behind.

The six-time champion returned to the action in tenth with both Pata riders in hot pursuit. Lowes, Redding, Smith and Orelac’s Oliver Konig the sole riders yet to pit as the remainder of the pack switched tyres.

Lap 12 saw Lowes finally head for a change of rubber as his teammate leapfrogged him in the on-track standings. Redding heading the field as Lowes returned to the action behind Bautista with Locatelli immediately capturing the position.

Rea was up to third as his fresh tyres pushed the pace, just Redding and Smith ahead on old rubber with seven seconds in hand and Razgatlioglu a massive five seconds behind despite running identical strategies.

The 2020 Champion was race leader once again with eight laps to go. Razgatlioglu heading Smith from second and third with Bautista, Lowes and Locatelli five seconds back. The second KRT outpacing the Ducati by almost a second as the race counted down with Smith demoted to sixth.

Lowes was through to third with a determined move at Lukey Heights with six to go. Locatelli capturing Bautista next time around with Bassani failing to threaten 11 seconds adrift.

Van der Mark suffered a second, more dramatic, crash at Miller Corner as the BMW dug into the gravel following a low side with two laps to go. Rea maintaining his six-second advantage as the last lap fired up as he looked to end his 24-race streak without a win.

The chequered flag dropped with the number 65 victorious from Razgatlioglu and Lowes. Locatelli heading Bautista in the top five as Ducati secured the Manufacturer title. Gerloff, Bassani, Vierge and Baz rounded out the top nine from Nagashima Rinaldi and a determined Smith - the sole rider not to swap tyres. Fores, Mahias and Syahrin completed the points finishers from a disappointed Redding.

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