Jonathan Rea says he couldn’t help but feel frustrated at being pushed off track on the opening lap by former Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes, before a fall trying to overtake Michael Ruben Rinaldi prematurely cut short the start of his World Superbike title defence.

Rea suffered just his seventh DNF since joining Kawasaki back in 2015 in a nightmare start to his bid for an unprecedented sixth consecutive World Superbike crown.

Having started from the front row, Rea’s race was effectively wrecked when he was forced off track by pole-sitter Sykes on the opening lap at Lukey Heights which saw the Kawasaki rider skate across the gravel trap and re-join the race in last place.

Looking to make up for lost ground, Rea’s attack ended on Lap 6 when he crashed at the Hayshed while trying to overtake Team GoEleven Ducati’s Rinaldi.

Rea says he has suffered burns on his leg from skating off track under his ZX-10RR but feels relatively okay despite his nightmare 2020 opener.

“I am just so frustrated because after what happened in the first lap, being put back there,” Rea said. “I felt I was making good ground.

“I felt great with the bike and I was coming up on Rinaldi and setting him up for a pass. I went really wide at the Hayshed as he opened up and started losing the front on the bumps. I am relatively OK, aside from being under the bike for a while so I burned some of my leg.”

Sykes called the Lap 1 clash an unlucky moment for both riders trying to take the same piece of track.

“In the race, we had a good start,” Sykes said. “It was unfortunate we had a coming together with Jonathan Rea early on, but I settled back in and got into a good rhythm for the first half of the race.” 

Rea hopes to fightback tomorrow in the Sprint Race and Race 2 at Phillip Island to deny his World Superbike rivals the chance to gain any further early ground in the title tussle.

“Frustrating to start the year like that but there are a lot of battles left and we have tomorrow,” he said. “The good thing is that I felt good with the bike.

“The sprint race will be flat to the mat for ten laps. I am sure I can be in that leading battle and keep my powder dry for that last lap.”

Toprak Razgatlioglu claimed victory in the 2020 World Superbike opener, taking the win on his Pata Yamaha debut, with Rea’s new Kawasaki team-mate Alex Lowes missing out in second place by just 0.007s at the finish line.