I’m beginning a 5,000 mile journey to Honduras and I must admit, I’m quite bored. However, there’s plenty to talk about – especially from World Superbikes. What an incredible weekend of racing we witnessed and the highest of drama unfolded across the two race days. So, what exactly did we learn from all of this?
Before we got to racing, we learnt that Pirelli suffered more tyre problems. Hopefully, this won’t be a familiar occurrence but it was deeply concerning. Due to the incompetence of Dorna‘s camera directors, we didn’t see how turn one unfolded when Rea and co arrived at turn one as the others exited pit lane during the second race but we can only assume that it was very close – as the pack was back together. Obviously, this time we did not see any disaster but something like that will have to be addressed if we have to carry out pit stops in more races. A fun spectacle? Absolutely. Do Pirelli have an inherent tyre problem? Probably not. But the coming rounds will tell.
Onto fierce track action, we saw a rejuvenated and revitalised Marco Melandri, who looked like his 250cc championship winning self. Quietly going about his business throughout testing, the diminutive ex GP winner proved that he is a real force in 2018. It was his first double win in over 3 seasons and Ducati’s first at Phillip Island since Carlos Checa. Melandri also becomes the first Italian on a Ducati to take a double since Frankie Chili at Kyalami in 1998 and the first Italian to start the season with a double since Giancarlo Falappa at Brands Hatch in 1993. Melandri could be your new title favourite.
Another stand out performer was the incredible Leon Camier, who put in a heroic ride to come home 7th and 6th, including running as high as 2nd in race two. The Honda has not been the most favoured bike on the grid but Camier got the machine working for him, staying with the leading group for the entirety of race two. Camier could well be a regular front runner if his pace is anything to go by but we must not get carried away either. Phillip Island always throws up belting races and Camier on his Honda needs to prove in Buriram that this was no fluke.
All the hype about Yamaha seems to make us journalists and pundits look silly. Flattering to deceive, the Pata Yamaha team never really got going Down Under, with obvious in-team friction after a thrilling battle between van der Mark and Lowes. In all fairness, the team were also hampered by the tyre debacle but even in testing earlier in the week, they never really looked like they had settled. Maybe in Thailand, we will see a much more competitive outfit.
One other thing we learnt was that Kawasaki are beatable. Rea had been ill in the build up to the event and whilst Sykes looked good, neither looked like they could conclusively win a race. Rea put in an astonishing performance in the second outing and came just 0.021s short of yet another triumph. Sykes doesn’t go well at Phillip Island so a 2nd and 4th ain’t bad. Other Kawasaki’s such as Toprak Razgatlıoğlu’s and Leandro Mercado’s also looked good, with the aforementioned Turk running with the leading group for the first part of the second race.
All in all, World Superbikes are back and the World Superbike championship as a global series looks like it may well be on it’s way back. I am not just saying that either. Whilst I say Yamaha didn’t shine as bright as we thought they would, they look like they have much more potential than seasons gone by. Aprilia, whilst watching riders crash across the weekend, look good and will surely take a race win this season if Laverty can keep riding like he is. As we have seen and discussed, Camier and Honda look like they are getting it right and Ducati, including Forés, have got a sensational package. I honestly can’t wait for 2018 to unravel and the next stop is Buriram. Thailand has seen Kawasaki success in the past but will they be stopped again, like they were in Australia?
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