Kawasaki ace starts title defence in style, but his rivals are still eager to fight!
The first Tissot Superpole of the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship went to Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who stormed to pole position at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. The all-new 25-minute single-session proved exciting, with all 19 riders taking to the track, all with the chance of pole position! The session sets the grid for Race 1 and the Tissot Superpole race on Sunday.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was the first rider to push the boundaries, sitting on top of the pile for most of the session. However, Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) soon toppled him with 13 minutes to go, throwing down the gauntlet to the rest of the field. Setting a lap time of 1’30.054. 10 minutes to go and he ventured out on the circuit with a new SC0 tyre. Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) then toppled the Spaniard, with a blistering sub-90 second lap. Bautista responded but couldn’t beat Haslam, placing a close second with less than five minutes to go.
However, it was reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea who fired in a lap with less than three minutes to go that shattered his own existing pole-lap record. A 1’29.413 placed Rea at the forefront of the grid, despite teammate Haslam and arch-rival Bautista and their hard efforts. Leon Haslam returned to WorldSBK with second position and gave Kawasaki their first one-two on the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit grid since 2017. Completing the front row was Alvaro Bautista, who puts himself right in contention for the top positions.
Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) made a vast improvement throughout the session and finished in fourth position, announcing BMW Motorrad’s return to the WorldSBK championship in a stylish manner. Also, on the second row of the grid, a further mixture of experience and youthful exuberance. Alex Lowes continued his run of top five grid positions in Australia, dating back to his full-time debut in 2014, qualifying no lower than fifth in each year. Rounding out the second row was impressive German Rookie, Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK).
Row three saw Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in seventh, missing out on the front two rows for third consecutive season. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) was top Italian, ahead of fellow countryman, Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK). The top nine riders all within one second of Jonathan Rea’s lap time in an extraordinarily close, record-breaking Tissot Superpole.
Completing the top ten was British rider, Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea HONDA Racing), making it five manufacturers inside the top ten. One rider who struggled was former Yamaha Finance Australian Round podium finisher, Chaz Davies. The Welshman will start from 16th on the grid and as the last Ducati rider.
See how the much anticipated first race of the season unfolds with the WorldSBK VideoPass!