The Championship’s closest finishes, a home hero, Rea’s Kawasaki debut and Melandri’s last win
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is on the horizon but, unlike between 2009 and 2020, it won’t be starting in Australia. We’re paying tribute to the Australian round this week by looking back at the top ten greatest World Superbike races at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. You can enjoy Part 2 and the top five below, whilst getting up to speed with Part 1, here!
Garry McCoy was a rookie in WorldSBK back in 2004 but in just the second round of action that year, the ‘King of Slide’ was already becoming something to behold. In a crazy Race 2 in Australia, Regis Laconi crashed out of the lead at Turn 10 on Lap 15, passing first on to Steve Martin. Martin led until Lap 20 of 22, blowing up at Turn 4, leaving Garry McCoy to inherit the lead. He resisted pressure from fellow rookie and countryman Chris Vermeulen to take his first and only WorldSBK win.
One of the most exciting, mouthwatering prospects of the 2015 WorldSBK season was Jonathan Rea’s first year with Kawasaki. Moving from Honda at the end of 2014, Rea found himself with the world at his feet and in his first race, was engaged in a race long battle. Last lap heroics, including passing Leon Haslam at Turn 9, gave Rea the edge he needed as he powered to his first win for Kawasaki – his 84th to-date (preseason 2021). Looking at 100 in total, 2015 seems a lifetime ago.
Having won the first race of the season, Ducati star Marco Melandri surely wasn’t about to become the first Italian rider to give Ducati a double since Pierfrancesco Chili in 1998, was he? Well, on the final lap of Race 2 Down Under, it looked like Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki had it in the bag but the lightweight Melandri gained massively through the final corner, using all of the power of the Ducati to the line to pip Rea by just 0.021s, taking what would turn out to be his final WorldSBK victory.
As far as season-opening races go, few were as crazily chaotic as 2020’s Race 1 on ‘The Island’ as unpredictability reigned. Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea collided on Lap 1, Rea crashed laps later and a huge fight at the front. Toprak Razgatlioglu held the lead in the last sector on the last lap, whilst Alex Lowes made a brave move at the last turn. Charging down the straight four abreast, Toprak won by just 0.007s, with the top three covered by just 0.041s in the second-closest podium of all-time.
WorldSBK’s closest finish of ever was another Phillip Island phenomenon, as Leon Haslam and Michel Fabrizio went head-to-head for the first honours of 2010. ‘Pocket Rocket’ Haslam led onto the Gardner Straight but Fabrizio powered alongside the British rider and across the line, the timing initially said the Italian Ducati rider had been given the win. However, by just 0.004s, it was reversed and Leon Haslam picked up his first WorldSBK win. There’s no better way to start the season.
Don’t forget to enjoy the whole of the 2021 season with the comprehensive WorldSBK VideoPass!