Andrea Locatelli stole the headlines at Phillip Island, but six other rookies had a weekend they won’t forget Down Under…
Rookie performances in the FIM Supersport World Championship were one of the key talking points following the Yamaha Finance Australian Round at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Andrea Locatelli (BARDHAL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) claimed pole position and the race win, leading all but one lap, to show he is a force to be reckoned with during the season. Locatelli beat two WorldSSP Champions in Tissot Superpole to take pole position ahead of Randy Krummenacher (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) in a sensational debut performance.
Italian rider Locatelli had set the pace during the Philip Island Official Test and continued his rapid pace into the race weekend; topping two out of three Free Practice sessions, Tissot Superpole and winning the race. The only lap he didn’t lead was when he took his mandatory pit stop, allowing riders who took a later stop to temporarily leapfrog him; even here, Locatelli showed a cool head and dealt with the extra step in perfect order.
Locatelli was not the only rookie to shine Down Under though, with South African rider Steven Odendaal (EAB Ten Kate Racing) being the second-highest place rookie in seventh, finishing ahead of Spaniard Manuel Gonzalez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team). Odendaal had qualified in seventh place, finishing where he started the race, while Gonzalez made up five places during the 16-lap battle. The performances of both Odendaal and Gonzalez show rookies can mix it up in both Superpole and the race.
Turkish sensation Can Öncü (Turkish Racing Team) picked up five points on his WorldSSP debut. Öncü started and finished the race in 11th as the Moto3™ race winner made his mark in the Championship. Öncü was the penultimate rookie point scorer as Andy Verdoia (bLU cRU WorldSSP by MS Racing) finished in 15th place to take one point on his debut. Verdoia made his way to 15th after starting in 18th place for the opening race of the season.
Galang Hendra Pratama (bLU cRU WorldSSP by MS Racing) was the last classified finisher in the race. The Indonesian rider came into the weekend on the back foot after a visa issue meant he missed the two-day Official Test leading up to the weekend. On a unique track, with fast, flowing corners and on tyres that required management throughout the race, this would’ve undoubtedly impacted on Hendra Pratama’s pace.
The final rookie in the World Supersport field was Philipp Oettl, who did not finish the race after retiring on Lap 6, following a crash at Turn 2 taking him out of the podium battle. His Superpole performance was enough to put him sixth on the grid, something Oettl will be able to take solace from. Although the race result will be forgetful for Oettl, the pace shown in Superpole will give the German rider confidence.
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