Champion Jonathan Rea sets the standard with double Philip Island win in Superbike title defence
A magnificent double victory at Phillip Island was the perfect start for Jonathan Rea, who began the defence of his World Superbike title with Kawasaki at the season opener in Australia.
Starting from third place on the front row of the grid for both races, the Ulsterman planned his execution perfectly and now heads into the second round of the championship as series leader by 13 points from Dutchman Mark Van der Mark, the 23-year-old who took a double podium for Honda Racing.
Speaking after his superb double top step, which now sees him move onto 31 career World Superbike victories, Rea said: "It is incredible. We had two really composed races this weekend. I just did my thing and was very patient in both at the beginning."
Recounting race two, where he had Chaz Davies on the factory Ducati as his main adversary, until the Welshman crashed out on the final lap as he disputed the lead, Rea added: "I knew that Chaz would make a move again in race two, a copybook story from Saturday, but he came through when there was no space, went completely wide and, unfortunately for him, he made a mistake."
Rea's opening race victory on Saturday was by a miniscule six-hundredths of a second over Davies, but with the Welshman giving way to frustration and crashing out, it allowed talented young Dutchman Van der Mark - third on Saturday - to cap a blistering opening weekend for Honda, taking second place on Sunday, just under a second behind our reigning world champion.
Davies' Ducati team-mate Davide Giugliano stole in to take the final podium position during Sunday's second race after making a hard pass on World Superbike debutant and former MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden on the second Honda Fireblade.
Over-viewing his weekend and looking ahead to round two, which takes place at Buriram, Thailand on March 11/12/13, Rea's conclusion will be a major warning shot for his rivals.
"The set-up changes we made between Saturday and Sunday meant the team gave me a bike that was quite easy to ride and I was ready for more attacks. We played a strategic game here in Phillip Island and it really paid off. I feel that we are working at around 85-90% of the potential of the machine and I am really proud to give Kawasaki these two wins on the new bike."
Reigning British Superbike champion Josh Brookes took a brace of top 10 finishes on his return to the World Superbike paddock on the Milwaukee BMW and holds ninth place in the championship standings.
Swiss racer Randy Krummenacher won the World Supersport race at Phillip Island on his debut in the class after reigning champion Kenan Sofuoglu crashed out gifting him the top step.
Race 1: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 33mins 47.823secs, 2 Chaz Davies (Gbr) Ducati 33:47.886, 3 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Honda 33:48.310, 4 Davide Giugliano (Ita) Ducati 33:48.470, 5 Tom Sykes (Gbr) Kawasaki 33:51.252, 6 Sylvain Guintoli (Fra) Yamaha 33:51.333, 7 Leon Camier (Gbr) MV Augusta 33:58.544, 8 Jordi Torres (Spa) BMW 33:59.362, 9 Nicky Hayden (USA) Honda 34:03.357, 10 Josh Brookes (Aus) BMW 34:11.062
Race 2: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 33mins 48.377secs, 2 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Honda 33:49.208, 3 Davide Giugliano (Ita) Ducati 33:49.849, 4 Nicky Hayden (USA) Honda 33:49.888, 5 Sylvain Guintoli (Fra) Yamaha 33:50.816, 6 Tom Sykes (Gbr) Kawasaki 33:51.697, 7 Jordi Torres (Spa) BMW 34:02.121, 8 Markus Reiterberger (Ger) BMW 34:03.461, 9 Josh Brookes (Aus) BMW 34:03.483, 10 Chaz Davies (Gbr) Ducati 34:04.653
World Championship Standings: Driver: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 50pts, 2 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Honda 36, 3 Davide Giugliano (Ita) Ducati 29, 4 Chaz Davies (Gbr) Ducati 26, 5 Sylvain Guintoli (Fra) Yamaha 21, 5 Tom Sykes (Gbr) Kawasaki 21, 7 Nicky Hayden (USA) Honda 20, 8 Jordi Torres (Spa) BMW 17, 9 Josh Brookes (Aus) BMW 13, 10 Leon Camier (Gbr) MV Augusta 9
Manufacturer: 1 Kawasaki 50pts, 2 Honda 36, 2 Ducati 36, 4 Yamaha 21, 5 BMW 17, 6 MV Augusta 9, 7 Aprilia 7