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WORLD SUPERBIKES

Rea wins season opener down under

Race One

Jonathan Rea has got his World Superbike title defence off to the perfect start with victory at the 2017 season opener after fending off a charging Chaz Davies at the chequered flag by just 0.042s. The double World Superbike champion was part of the top seven melee which gave a frantic start to the first race of the year with Rea, Davies, Tom Sykes, Marco Melandri and Alex Lowes all enjoying stints in the lead. Melandri's race ended in frustration on lap 15 after running wide and slipping off his Aruba.it Racing Ducati.

It took until the final five laps for tyre wear and performance to stretch the field and as Rea looked to steady his lead Davies produced a last-lap charge.
The Aruba.it Racing Ducati rider attempted a pass for the lead at the start of the final lap but couldn't make the move stick. Rea kept the Welsh rider in check until the sprint to the finish line and narrowly held on for the opening victory. Sykes, who only dropped out of victory contention over the final two laps, completed a familiar rostrum trio in third place just over a second off team-mate Rea.

Lowes put a Pata Yamaha in the mix throughout the race and only missed out on first podium since 2015 by 0.032s against Sykes. Despite failing to reach the podium, Lowes can take small comfort in being the first pole sitter with the revised race two grid formation rules introduced for 2017, while Sykes will start seventh, Davies eighth and race winner Rea in ninth. Despite a small fade over the final laps Leon Camier produced an impressive showing for MV Agusta with fifth place having held off Barni Ducati's Xavi Fores.

Milwaukee Aprilia's Eugene Laverty made up for a frustrating Superpole crash to steal eighth place from Michael van der Mark at the chequered flag as Randy Krummenacher sealed a strong maiden World Superbike race by completing the top ten. Nicky Hayden wrestled the new Red Bull Honda Fireblade to 11th place ahead of Markus Reiterberger as Roman Ramos, Alex de Angelis and Stefan Bradl rounded out the points positions.

Race Two

Jonathan Rea has completed a dominant double victory at Phillip Island to produce a perfect start to the defence of his World Superbike title after fending off a two-bike attack from Aruba.it Racing Ducati's Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri. The Kawasaki Racing Team rider measured his race pace to perfection to remain in charge of the leading pack and in a similar bolt to race one over the final two laps he blasted past Davies in the run down to turn one and fended off the Welsh rider's attacks to clinch the race win by 0.025s.

Despite another spirited battle but falling just short, Davies can be content with two second places finishes to give himself a bright start to 2017 in the hunt for the World Superbike title. The Welsh rider's team-mate Melandri also enjoyed a sharp return to racing by making up for his race one off to finish third for Aruba.it Racing Ducati having led for a large part of the middle chunk of the race before his pace faded late on.

For a second straight race Alex Lowes claimed fourth place for Pata Yamaha to get his year off to a positive start, albeit without the return of any podium trophies, while Barni Ducati's Xavi Fores held on to fifth place from Tom Sykes who struggled to match the race pace of the front trio after being held up by the race two grid reverse.

With the controversial race two grid formation being run for the first time it appeared to have the desired effect with both Davies and Rea picking their way through the pack to climb towards the top but Sykes was unable to make any solid progress over the opening half of the race, eventually settling for sixth place.

Pata Yamaha's new recruit Michael van der Mark finished seventh ahead of Leon Camier and Lorenzo Savadori as his Milwaukee Aprilia team-mate Eugene Laverty rounded out the top ten.It was a nightmare start to 2017 for Nicky Hayden with the new Red Bull Honda as he crashed out of race two, allowing Alex de Angelis to jump to 11th place.

Josh Brookes grabbed 12th place on his 2015 BSB-title winning Yamaha R1 after retiring from race one, with Markus Reiterberger, Roman Ramos and Stefan Bradl completing the points positions.

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