I may as well just about get used to it. You know, the frustration, while live tweeting a race, when one types out a tweet, hits send, looks up and realizes that the positions have changed… again.
Please. I am not complaining, just glad that there is still something faster than Twitter.
The first race of the season, at Phillip Island, was breathtaking and mercurial (always a good combination). The second race was the same, made even more so with the new grid rule:
A December FIM press release laid out the maddening makeover:
“The formation of the grid for Race 2 will now be decided following race results from Saturday.
Superpole results will continue to define starting positions for riders who finished in 10th position or lower, however the front of the grid will now be determined on Race One results.
The front three rows will be affected in the following way:
- Top three riders move back to row three and see 1st and 3rd reverse their positions.
- Riders who finished in 4th, 5th and 6th will be promoted to the front row.
- Riders who finished in 7th, 8th and 9th will start from the second row.
- Controversial though it may have be, as race day dawned (and of course going by the results and performances during the first race), the revised grid threw up a fresh range of possibilities. And the result? Well, it definitely helps us figure out how this season will play out (dare I make a few predictions).”
So, there they were, our most fearless warriors (Tom Sykes, Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea, in that order) tucked away on the third row of the grid. Stretched out before them in all their glory was an expanse of riders, itching for a podium and take the fight to the finish, something that had been denied to them during the first race.
“I’m so happy because to win a last lap battle here is hard, but to do it two times here and with tactical racing, it’s so hard. I just wanted to come here and start on my way, before yesterday I hadn’t won before the summer break in 2016 so it’s nice to start my campaign and with 50 points and two wins.”
P1 . Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki Racing Team
Before them were Alex Lowes (Yamaha) who, after finishing 4th in the first race took the helm, followed by Leon Camier (MV Agusta), Xavi Fores (Ducati), Jordi Torres (BMW), Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) and Michael van der Mark (Yamaha).
And so they began, much as you would expect. Lowes held on to his first place, with Laverty and Fores following close behind, making him sweat a bit and most definitely, keeping him honest. But that lasted for one lap with Laverty taking over the reins, followed by a determined Fores. Rea and Davies, meanwhile, dispensed with all formalities, caught up with the rest of the pack and lay stake on the podium. By lap 6, Rea was leading the race.
“It was tight in both races and this one was even closer I reckon. Everybody had a little go at taking the lead and tried to break away at the front, but its near-on impossible here at Phillip Island so I just ran my own race. I tried to break away with a couple of laps to go but it wasn’t going to happen. We gave away a lot of points here last year, so to take 40 points at what is not one of our favourite tracks is good and look forward to the next one.”
P2. Chaz Davies – Aruba.it Racing – Ducati
Let’s not forget, Davies. The Ducati rider followed Rea closely, striking at the right moment and taking the lead. His teammate Marco Melandri, who had had an inauspicious return to racing the previous day, had started from 10th place. But that did not seem to matter. He laid claim to the podium, just about halfway through the race. A remarkable feat given where he started.
Sykes though had an unremarkable race. It does leave you with a feeling that he would perhaps pay the biggest price for the new grid rule. The Briton started out at 7th place, got pushed back, and was only able to finish 6th, barely able to catch up with the pack up front.
“It’s been a very good weekend, race one was difficult race two was even more difficult because I came from the back, which meant I was pushing the tyre a bit too much. In the last few laps I didn’t have enough grip to try and fight for a win, but those two guys were a bit stronger than me today. To be back on the podium in my first Round after a year and a half off is good.”
P3. Marco Melandri – Aruba.it Racing – Ducati
All that was forgotten, however, in the last few laps. Of course, by then, the positions had changed so much that I had lost count, too scared to take my eyes away from the screen, worried that I would miss a piece of the action.
The end was just as feral as the rest of the weekend. The last lap was as stunning as it was suspenseful. Rea crossed the finish line in the first place (barely) with Davies taking the second with +0.025s and Melandri, the third (+0.249s). Lowes, Fores and Sykes completed the top 6.
It’s anyone’s guess how this season will turn out. Though, it wouldn’t be wrong to surmise that these are the names to keep an eye on. However, we will be best served to remember that the contenders are many and motivations are running high. Fair to say that it’s still a bad idea to place your bets.
THE LAY OF THE LAND
1 Jonathan Rea
2 Chaz Davies
3 Marco Melandri
4 Alex Lowes
5 Xavi Fores
6 Tom Sykes
7 Michael van der Mark
8 Leon Camier
9 Lorenzo Savadori
10 Eugene Laverty
11 Alex De Angelis
12 Josh Brookes
13 Markus Reiterberger
14 Roman Ramos
15 Stefan Bradl
16 Randy Krummenacher
17 Ondrej Jezek
RET Nicky Hayden
RET Ayrton Badovini
RET Ricardo Russi
RET Jordi Torres