2017 Phillip Island World Superbike Race 2 Notes: Title Favorites Talk Season Opener

The second race of the WorldSBK season saw history made with the introduction of the much-touted revised grid that saw the podium men from Race 1 start from the third row.

This meant that Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes had to fight through the field during the 22 lap affair. It proved little challenge for Rea and Davies to hit the front but ultimately Sykes lost too much time making progress and abused his tires trying to bridge the gap to the leading group.

That leading group consisted of three Ducatis, a Kawasaki and a Yamaha with the Italian horde of Davies, Marco Melandri and Xavi Fores all taking turns at the front.

After Race 1 Rea said that it was one of the strangest races he had been involved in but in the second race it was a much more traditional affair. The pace was much faster in Race 2 but the fight at the front was as frenzied as it was during the opener.

"A few laps before the end I changed my line a little bit just because I had been in front for so long and the other riders had been able to study my riding closely,” said Rea. “I focused on making sure I had a clean last sector and good drive to the straight. On a Superbike it's better to lead onto the straight because it's difficult to overtake before the line I tried to make sure that Chaz had to come to my left, that's the worse line into turn one. It's a great win for us.”

For Davies the focus was on riding smart and not making any big mistakes. The Welshman rode a calculated race to ensure that he came away with 40 points from the season opener.

"I tried a few things during the race but I didn't do anything crazy. This is another 20 points, and 40 from this weekend, so there's lots to be positive about. I've collected more points than last year and that's the key for me. Phillip Island has always been tough for me and I've always lost points so that's why these results are a positive.”

Having stalled in his attempt to get through the pack Sykes had to settle for sixth at the flag but afterwards the Englishman, who had been critical of the race 2 shakeup said, “We saw today that the guys that finished on the podium all started on row three and four so if they can do it I have to be able to do it too. That being said I'm happy with how we performed this weekend and to come away with 26 points.”

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Dumb. Sooner or later we will see first turn mayhem due to the fast guys needing to be agressive. This sport doesn't need to be any more dangerous than it already is.

From what I saw the grid shuffle had virtually no impact on the racing. The same guys ended up at the pointy end by mid race anyway

I think the new grid rule for race 2 is silly to say the least, but I don't think it's dangerous to put 'the fast guys' on row 3. It's not like they have not been there before or that they don't know how to overtake properly. I think there's more of a potential danger in the finish for 3rd and 4th spot in race 1, if anything. Especially in the later stages of the season it may become smarter for a title contender to take 4th on Saturday, sacrifice three points and then be on pole for race 2 on Sunday, instead of on the third row. This strange situation was already mentioned by David several months ago when the rule change was announced. A sudden slowing down just before the finish could be tricky and then we get to those annoying jury decisions again. Where somebody could be funnily accused of deliberately missing out on the podium. (Maybe they should make a new rule for that, just to add to the confusion.)

But then again, maybe the racer's instinct to try and finish on the podium will be strong enough to prevent that potential problem.

Only three comments on a race that rivalled anything I've seen across various series in recent years? Is it that the majority of readers don't watch or have access to WSBK? If so that's a shame, the series has come good again after a few dull years and this year looks very promising.

Anyway; two cracking races and some excellent racecraft from Rea. I didn't expect Melandri to be a serious contender but he certainly looks like one. Nor to see Hayden in the relative obscurity of mid-pack after quite a good year in 2016. Shades of his MotoGP career there. And good to see Brookes making progress - he really ought to be on a better bike.

I don't think that the mid pack results from Hayden and Bradl are the fault of the riders. Both are former world champions and Hayden was quite competitive in SBK last year. The new Fireblade is quite simply slower than its predecessor. Go back and look at the times from the SBK race at PI from last year. Hayden and Van Der Mark were both quicker on last years Honda and ran in the lead group. Van Der Mark came close to getting a win in both races in fact. It surprises me that Honda would go to the trouble of producing a homologation special, presumably with SBK in mind, and not ensure that it is clearly an improvement over the previous generation bike. I know it's just one race weekend, but it doesn't look like it's going to be a banner year for big red in SBK. HRC will have to get involved if Honda is to be competitive in SBK anytime soon. 

I read that because of an earthquake in Japan the new Honda Fireblad just arrived a couple of weeks ago at the Ten Kate racing team. In stock trim.....

I think it should be noted that Honda and Yamaha are some of the few manufacturers that are playing the game according the basisprinciples of WSBK: sending no factoryteam with big recources but really European based team instead. The rest of the frontrunning teams may be considered as full factorysupported teams.  I think that if we keep putting this teams at shame for not being compatitive and call for HRC support, at long term we might not help the sport. We should put a hold on the budgets of Kawasaki, Ducati and Aprilia instead!

That's what I kind of meant i.e. it didn't seem right to see Hayden way back there given he (and VDM) were up at the front all last year. What seems odd is that commentators always speak well of Nicky, that he never bad-mouths his factory, but he always seems to get a bit of a bum deal from Honda after giving it his all.

Both races were truly spellbinding, but race two was as good a WSB race as I've ever seen!

You are exactly right. Just like when he took the ride with Aspar with a lot of American Honda money on the customer RCV. Honda promised a lot and delivered very little. Hayden remained loyal to Honda and of course got the SBK ride. Kinda makes me wonder if Van Der Mark knew something that Hayden didn't about the new Fireblade SP or even the level of involvement from the factory. I really thought Van Der Mark might have been on his way to a satellite Honda MotoGP team in a couple of years and that PJ Jacobsen could possibly take his place in SBK with Honda.  Shows you what I know.