Malcolm Offline

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The opening race of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship saw official KRT riders Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea finish in second and fifth places respectively, with Sykes leading for 18 of the 22 laps. Sykes’ second place today took his tally of podium finishes in WorldSBK to 101 – 100 of them on Kawasaki machinery.

For most of the opening race of the 2018 season Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea were in podium positions on their official Ninja ZX-10RRs, until the last few laps when Sykes lost a few vital tenths due to a drop in rear traction in the high winds. Rea had more serious issues and slowed quite dramatically as his rear tyre blistered and he went from second place to fifth, almost pulling into the pits at one stage to retire.

Sykes had started the first race of the Phillip Island weekend from pole position, having won the first Superpole contest of the year earlier in the day. It was his 43rd career Superpole success, making him equal best-ever WorldSBK qualifier alongside Australian legend Troy Corser.

Out front in the race Sykes pulled out a strong lead from the start, heading up Rea by over a second after one lap of the 4.445km circuit. He extended that lead to over 1.5 seconds, but them Rea and eventual race winner Marco Melandri drew themselves closer and closer. Sykes defended his position by responding to his pit board signals but after Rea dropped back and Sykes started to lose the very best of his rear traction, Melandri took the lead with four laps to go.

Sykes scored a strong second place in the final result, over eight seconds ahead of the third placed rider, with Rea being forced into giving up two more places at the flag, to earn a hard-won fifth place finish.

The second race of the new season is scheduled for 15.00 hours on Sunday 25th February.

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Tom Sykes, stated:

“I was smiling from start to finish. I had a good launch off the line on the Ninja ZX-10RR and I was really happy with the race package. We had done out homework in the test, and in free practice when we used one set of tyres for two sessions. Today, with the heavy wind, I was not able to finish some of the corners as efficiently as yesterday in practice. Ultimately, that is what put the rear tyre in a kind of fatigue mode with five laps to go. Shortly after that point we started suffering with the front in turn three, and in places like the last turn. Tomorrow is another day and I am quietly confident.”

Jonathan Rea, stated:

“I had a blister in the rear tyre from around lap 16 which was really unfortunate because until that point I felt quite good with the bike. It is a double edged sword because, of course, the tyre did not stand up to the job and the way I was riding, but also the way I have been riding is not 100% natural right now. I am still trying to find a good way. We have been changing the bike quite a lot to feel really comfortable. We could not make it happen. The vibrations were that much that I kept thinking I was going to crash, like Donington. It crossed my mind to come into the pits and pull out but I just nursed it through all the lefts and finished the race to salvage some points.”

24-02-2018, 12:31 PM
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