The drought is over: tactical masterclass from Rea gives him wet-to-dry Race 1 victory at Phillip Island

The first race in Australia for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship for almost three years was an instant classic in a wet-to-dry flag-to-flag race at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) claimed victory after being one of the first leading riders to pit as the conditions improved at the circuit throughout the 22-lap race. Rea’s race win ended his victory drought which had been brewing since the Estoril Round in May.

A TACTICAL MASTERCLASS: from wet to dry…

Rea was one of the first leading riders to pit when he changed from wet tires to slicks on Lap 10, along with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK), and came out in fourth place in the overall race but in the net led with the riders ahead not pitting. The race winning overtake came on Lap 15 when he overtook Kyle Smith (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) around the outside of the Turn 4 hairpin; Smith chose not to pit during the race as he took a gamble to stick with wet tires.

It had been a lead group of four riders in the wet conditions with Rea, Razgatlioglu, polesitter Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK). Lowes had been leading when the first riders started pitting but opted to be the last of the riders from the lead group to pit, dropping him down to fourth place before he passed Bautista in the closing stages to take third place, behind Razgatlioglu; whose pit stop on the same lap as Rea moved him into second place. Bautista pitted on Lap 11 of 22, just one lap later than Rea and Razgatlioglu, while Lowes pitted on Lap 12.

Rea’s victory gave him his first win in 181 days and 24 races as well as moving him on to 118 wins in WorldSBK; double the number of Carl Fogarty who is second in the all-time list. He also became the first rider to have a winning career spanning more than 13 years. Razgatlioglu claimed his 81st podium, and the 28th of his 2022 campaign, while Lowes took his 32nd podium with third place despite losing time in the pit stops.

MOVING UP, DROPPING DOWN: mixed fortunes in the top six

Fourth place went to Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) after he had another strong result, with the Italian passing Bautista in the closing stages shortly after Lowes had. Lowes’ move on Bautista came on Lap 17 when he went around the outside of Turn 9 to move into the podium places. However, the results of the race mean Ducati secured the 2022 Manufacturers’ Championship, the 18th time for them in WorldSBK. The best Independent rider for Race 1 went to Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in sixth spot as he pitted on the same lap as Bautista.

IN THE TOP TEN: a dramatic race

Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) just missed out on the top Independent honors by 1.406s to Gerloff as he took seventh spot, finishing ahead of Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) in eighth spot who was 5.5 seconds down on Bassani. Despite finishing behind Gerloff, Bassani’s seventh place ensured Motocorsa Racing took the top Independent Teams’ title for 2022. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) was the lead BMW rider in ninth spot and ensured all five manufacturers were in the top ten, while standing in rider Tetsuta Nagashima (Team HRC) rounded out the top ten in his first WorldSBK race as he replaced the injured Iker Lecuona.

GAMBLES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE: mixing it up in the points-paying positions

Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) took 11th spot and his results helped the Aruba.it Racing – Ducati squad secure the Teams’ Championship for the first time since 2020, finishing ahead of Smith. Despite Smith leading at the end of Lap 14 after opting to stick with his wet tires on a constantly drying track, he rapidly dropped back down the order but took 12th place for his first points in WorldSBK as well as the team’s highest-scoring points haul of the season. He held off a late charge from Xavi Fores (BARNI Spark Racing Team) in 13th, with Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Hafizh Syahrin (MIE Racing Honda Team) rounding out the points-paying positions; Syahrin was one of the first riders to make the switch to slick tires when he pitted on Lap 6.

Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was one of the last riders to pit and finished in 16th place; less than a second behind Syahrin despite the gap in when they pitted. Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) was 17th with Eugene Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW) in 18th and Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) in 19th; Konig was running in the podium places, along with Redding and Smith, when he pitted at the end of Lap 13. Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven), the only rider to start on a rear intermediate tire, ran through the gravel on the opening lap . He brought his machine back into the but re-joined the race a lap down and finished in 20th place.

HOUSEKEEPING: to note from Race 1

Japanese rider Kohta Nozane (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) brought his bike into the pits on the opening lap of the race to retire. Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) retired on Lap 21 of 22 after his second crash of the race. His first crash came at Turn 10 on Lap 7, while his second was at Turn 4 on the penultimate lap which forced him out of the race.

The top six following WorldSBK Race 1:

1 Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)

2. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +6.247s

3. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +15.435s

4. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +19.369s

5. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +19.369s

6. Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +36.235s

Fastest lap: Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) – 1’31.847s

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