The second SBK race in Phillip Island handed out a few important lessons this morning. Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies learned that every little mistake would cost them a position and important championship points. Nicky Hayden learned that ballsy moves were the order of the day as far as WSBK was concerned. And we learned that the Hondas and Ducatis were fast…really fast. But the Kawasakis were faster!
It was an eventful, breathless, nail-biting Sunday morning at the races. I discovered the art of tweeting as fast as possible, but still being unable to keep up with the changing positions on the track.
The race kicked off with Tom Sykes setting a quick pace and making a charge to lead the pack. His teammate Jonathan Rea took second spot after battling Davide Giugliano and even Sykes. Davies and Michael van der Mark both settled into the 3rd and 4th place. It was obvious though that they were all waiting for a mistake, for a moment, a chance to strike, to leap and make a move.
Behind Hayden and Giugliano were engaged in a brief battle for positions and changing places until the Kentucky Kid had to make peace with 6th place, leaving Giugliano to take the 5th.
Disaster struck for Sykes 11 laps into the race. It was a mistake that pushed him wide and it was enough for the circling sharks. As he went into the hairpin, Sykes explained in a team press release, he struggled on the downshift, missed a gear and ran off the track. He lost 1.6 seconds on that lap and his lead position, slipping down the ranks to 4th place, right in front of a charging Giugliano and Hayden. A few laps later, Giugliano tried to make a move on Sykes, clipped his rear wheel and pushed both the Kawasaki and the Ducati wide. Hayden and Sylvain Guintoli who was in 6th place at that time, grabbed the opportunity and went in for the kill. They swept past Sykes and Giugliano to take the 4th and 5th place.
There were changing places in the top 3 as well. Michael van der Mark, tired of playing second fiddle managed to ease past Rea – not an easy feat – but just for one lap. The Englishman took back his lead position subsequently. By lap 19, Rea was in the lead and van der Mark had given way to Davies who spent three laps trying to get past the reigning world champion. Rea was expecting a move, similar to the one the Welshman made during Saturday’s race. So Davies did manage to take the lead, but had to relinquish it. Not the type to give up, Davies then tried again, all over the Kawasaki, nearly matching pace for pace, but not fast enough.
On the last lap, at turn 4, in a final attempt at passing Rea, Davies lost the front while trying to pass the Kawasaki rider on the brakes and went into the kitty litter. It was a devastating end to a fantastic race that saw Davies end the second race in 10th place.
It was obvious that his teammate Giugliano meanwhile wasn’t very keen to be left behind in 7th place. He passed Sykes and Guintoli and laid siege on Hayden who was now in 3rd place and looked set to be making his maiden WSBK podium appearance. In a move that was brilliant and ballsy (it is the best word for what he pulled on Hayden), Giugliano slid past Hayden to take the 3rd spot and his rightful place on the podium. It was a brilliant moment for the Italian seeking to make a proper comeback after a serious back injury.
Rea and van der Mark took their first and second place, displaying once again their absolute mastery. They had a fought a righteous battle with absolutely no mistakes.
Meanwhile there was an important lesson to be had even in the world of WSS. Kenan Sofuoglu learned that his competition base had expanded quite substantially this season. The race saw several riders taking the lead at different points until Sofuoglu and his rookie teammate Randy Krummenacher made their 1-2 stick. But a tyre issue saw the Turkish world champion crash and hand over his hard-won first position to his teammate. The 2nd and 3rd place on the podium went to Federico Caricasulo and wildcard entrant Anthony West.
As always Phillip Island did not disappoint and gave us a nailbiting experience, an apt kick-off to a long and what is bound to be a superb season. Next up is Buriram in Thailand. Wonder what lessons we will learn there?
The next WSBK Race will be held between March 11-13 in Buriram, Thailand