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WSBK season opens at Phillips Island

Posted By Wes Fleming, Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship – commonly known as World Superbike, or WSBK – had its season opener at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Australia on 25-26 February, 2017.

Both races were nail-bitingly exciting, with #1 plate holder Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) trading the lead with Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing/Ducati), Marco Melandri (Aruba.it/Ducati), Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha) and even rookie Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) but ultimately winning both races. Rea leads the championship after its inaugural event with 50 points, but Davies isn’t far behind with 40 points earned from his dual second-place finishes.

The Althea BMW Racing Team had a respectable, but ultimately disappointing outing. Spaniard Jordi Torres (#81) finished Race 1 in 7th place, 8.7 seconds behind Rea. Torres fell back quickly from his starting position in Row 3, but fought ahead to within striking distance of the lead pack and benefitted from Lorenzo Savadori and Marco Melandri crashing out of Race 1.

He managed to stay well ahead of Irishman Eugene Laverty in the last laps of the race, but couldn’t quite catch fellow Spaniard Xavi Forés, who brought up the rear of the lead pack. Torres had the fastest speed of the entire grid during Race 1, reaching 198.5 mph and due to new gridding rules, his seventh-place finish in Race 1 put him in the fourth slot on the grid for Race 2, at the head of Row 2.

Markus Reiterberger (#21) spent much of Race 1 clashing with American Nicky Hayden’s teammate, rookie Stefan Bradl, ultimately finishing in 12th place, over 21 seconds behind the winner but just two seconds behind Hayden, who seemed to struggle with his Red Bull Honda CBR1000RR SP2. “I was happy with the test early in the week,” Reiterberger said, praising the setup on his S 1000 RR.

Race 2 was a disappointment for Torres, who had acceleration problems with his motorcycle during the warm-up lap and was forced to drop out of the race altogether. “It was a weekend of ups and downs for us,” he said. “Overall the weekend went well and we know that we have the pace to be consistently within the front group.”

All the teams had to deal with scorching track temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which made tire management not only difficult, but critical to success. Most laps saw times above 1 minute, 32 seconds, while many qualifying times were well over a full second faster.

Reiterberger started Race 2 well, getting as high as ninth place before spending most of the race in 11th. Unfortunately, he dropped two positions in the final drag race out of Turn 12, crossing the finish line in 13th, nearly 26 seconds behind Rea.

Torres sits at nine points in the overall standings, with Reiterberger close behind at seven. BMW has 12 points in the Manufacturer’s Standings, trailing Aprilia (15) but leading Honda (6). Both men earned points in the BMW Motorrad Race Trophy, which covers 20 racing series around the world.

As happens with many WSBK race weekends, the host nation’s Superbike Championship runs the same weekend, and Phillip Island was no exception. There are two S 1000 RR riders campaigning in the Australian Superbike Championship, Troy Guenther (#56, NextGen Motorsports) and Samuel Lambert (#54, Cyclone Motorcycles).

While WSBK has an overall grid of 22 riders – Italian Leandro Mercado from the IodaRacing team sat out due to injury – ASBK has a field of 35 racers, and even more at some events. They also run three races every weekend compared to WSBK’s two.

Guenther tacked down 11th and 13th place finishes in Races 1 and 2, respectively, but was solidly mid-pack at 17th after Race 3 was red-flagged and restarted due to a serious crash. Lambert earned finishes in 16th, 20th and 14th places for the three races.

“It was a big learning curve this weekend for myself and the NextGen Motorsports team,” Guenther said. “We tried many different settings on the BMW S 1000 RR, and came away with a good direction of what does and doesn’t work – along with a haul of points to start the year.”

The next WSBK races will be from 10-12 March at the Chang International Circuit in Buri Ram, Thailand. ASBK’s next races will be from 17-19 March at Wakefield Park Raceway in Goulburn, New South Wales.

Superbike racing in the USA kicks off 21-23 April in a combined MotoGP-MotoAmerica event at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. BMW S 1000 RR racers Steve Rapp and Jeremy Cook are expected to race for MotoAmerica at COTA.

Tags:  Racing  S1000RR  WSBK 

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