The first race to be held under the new grid rules, where the top three from race one start race two from the third row, had little effect on the winning machine that is Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team). He had to fight for his second race victory again, the 40th in his career, with Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) just 0.025 seconds behind him after 22-laps.

Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) took a podium finish in his first weekend back in his old paddock, passing Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) late in the race and holding him off by 0.7 seconds. The top four were all within a second after another Phillip Island classic race.

A superb last lap battle between four riders for podium positions saw Rea come out on top again, with Davies a close second (+0.025s), whilst Melandri rode excellently for third (+0.249s) and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) collected more good points in fourth having led the race early on.

Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Ducati) placed fifth and third row starter Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) went sixth, almost five seconds back from Rea.

The first race of the new grid re-ordering rules caused some early re-ordering of the WorldSBK stars, until Rea pushed up to second place by lap four.

After his solid fourth in Race 1 on Saturday, Lowes made an excellent start from the head of the reshuffled Race 2 grid to lead the way in the opening stages, with Laverty and Fores also getting in the mix early on. Rea soon came through from ninth though, making light work of the challenge of the new regulations for 2017 which sees the grid reshuffled on Sunday further to the Race 1 results.

Rea took over in the lead with 17 laps to go, as Davies also soon came through to contest the lead, with Lowes fighting to stay with the Welshman and Rea for a podium result.

Melandri emerged as a contender in the second half of the race, having steadily fought his way to the front from tenth on the grid after his WorldSBK comeback on Saturday ended in a disappointing DNF. The Italian was delighted to return to the podium at the end of Race 2 as he kept Rea and Davies in his sights.

A technical issue saw Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) pull off track and out of contention in the Warm Up lap. Nicky Hayden (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) crashed with 14 laps to go, with additional crashes for Riccardo Russo (Guandalini Racing) and Ayrton Badovini (Grillini Racing Team).

The WorldSBK riders will be back in action at the second round of the season, the Motul Thai Round, over the 10th-12th March weekend.

Posted by Philip Chong

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