Jonathan Rea happy with 'damage limitation' after battling bug to finish second
Jonathan Rea defined his runner-up finish in race two at Phillip Island yesterday as 'damage limitation' as the World Superbike champion made the best of a challenging weekend in Australia.
Rea finished fifth in Saturday's opening race after a blistered rear tyre saw him drop back from second position with six laps remaining.
The Kawasaki rider made amends in race two and was right in contention for his first win of the new season, only to be denied by a few hundredths of a second by Italy's Marco Melandri as they flashed across the line.
Rea actually led out of the final corner on the last lap but Melandri drifted past to snatch a narrow win by only 0.021 seconds, with Spain's Xavi Fores right on their tails in third on the Barni Ducati.
The race was held under flag-to-flag conditions with riders required to make a pit stop to change to a fresh rear tyre between laps 10 and 12. The decision was made after competitors, including Rea, raised safety concerns over tyre life following Saturday's race.
Melandri was celebrating a double after winning the first race from Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) and his Aruba.it Ducati team-mate Chaz Davies.
The former MotoGP winner leads the championship after round one by 17 points from Yorkshireman Sykes, with reigning champion Rea a further two points behind in third.
Reflecting on the race yesterday, Rea revealed he had been feeling unwell in the run up to the championship opener.
"I'm really happy with the result and I knew the only way I could win was to try and lead out of the final corner because there was no chance I could come around the Ducati here," said Rea.
"I enjoyed the race, all aspects of it, and in the beginning I honestly felt like someone had fitted a qualifier to Eugene Laverty's bike because the first lap was incredible.
"But once we found our rhythm I was quite happy. We were always in the top two and Xavi Fores was doing an incredible job of setting the pace.
"To finish fifth in race one and then to get second in today's race is some damage limitation for me. I'm happy because I've been feeling unwell this week and now we'll be trying to get healthy before we go to Thailand."
Sykes claimed fourth place, 1.4 seconds behind race winner Melandri, while the top six was rounded out by PATA Yamaha's Alex Lowes and Leon Camier on the Red Bull Honda.
Eugene Laverty, eighth in Saturday's race, had set the early pace on his Milwaukee Aprilia before the Toomebridge man crashed out on the third lap.
Laverty was able to remount and completed the race in 15th place to earn a consolation point. "The bike was feeling amazing and really easy to ride, and I was pulling out a decent time gap," Laverty said.
"On lap three suddenly the rear lost grip and I high-sided, so I was really disappointed with that.
"We've got to be optimistic for round two at Chang after the performance we've shown at Phillip Island. The team is right in the mix now and it's very exciting for us all."
The next round at Chang in Thailand is on March 23-25.
Race 1: 1 M Melandri (Ducati) 33m 40.354s; 2 T Sykes (Kawasaki) +1.180; 3 C Davies (Ducati) +9.265s; 4 X Fores (Ducati) +9.821s; 5 J Rea (Kawasaki) +13.896; 6 A Lowes (Yamaha) +17.028s; 7 L Camier (Honda) +21.514s; 8 E Laverty (Aprilia) +23.662s.
Race 2: M Melandri (Ducati) 34m 42.633s; 2 J Rea (Kawasaki) +0.021s; 3 X Fores (Ducati) +0.304s; 4 T Sykes (Kawasaki) +1.488s; 5 A Lowes (Yamaha) +2.474s; 6 L Camier (Honda); + M VD Mark (Yamaha) +3.098s; 8 J Torres (MV Agusta) +14.301s.