WorldSBK Phillip Island - Race Results (1)

Toprak Razgatlioglu secured victory on his Pata Yamaha debut as he prevailed in a thrilling opening encounter for the 2020 WorldSBK Championship, while defending champion Jonathan Rea dramatically crashed out early on.

A breathless race right up until the finish line with just 0.137s covering the top four riders, the encounter lived up to pre-event billing as potentially one of the most open championships in recent memory with all five manufacturers duked it out for victory.

In the end though it came down to a sprint to the finish line with Razgatlioglu just holding off an inspired Alex Lowes and Scott Redding by 0.007s and 0.041s respectively.

Indeed, the race delivered drama almost immediately when Rea, who grabbed the lead into turn one, was pushed off track by pole sitter Tom Sykes on the run up to Lukey Heights. An aggressive overtake from the 2013 champion, the contact sent Rea skating across the gravel to leave him seven seconds adrift at the back of the field.

However, worse was to follow for the five-time champion as he attempted to make swift progress back up the order when he lost the front-end coming through Hayshed and was sent barrelling off the track. Only his seventh DNF since joining Kawasaki back in 2015, though he walked away unharmed, it marks a disastrous start to his title defence.

Up at the front, Sykes survived his brush with Rea to lead over the first half of the race, but had Redding, Michael van der Mark, Razgatlioglu, Leon Haslam and Lowes for close company throughout.

Eventually Redding made his move at the start of lap 11, kickstarting a chain reaction that would see Sykes lose another five positions over the next two laps as his tyres faded.

From here Redding controlled the pace only for a minor error into the hairpin on lap 13 to allow Razgatlioglu – who was already in the midst of a pass on team-mate van der Mark – to slip ahead into the lead.

Though he couldn’t break away, Razgatlioglu’s cause was seemingly being helped by a cautious van der Mark resisting an aggressive pass on his Yamaha team-mate in their 1-2 position.

He eventually worked his way ahead on the exit of turn two with four laps to go, but found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time at the start of the penultimate lap when he was drafted by both Razgatlioglu and Lowes into turn one.

Lowes – up from eighth on the grid and shining on his Kawasaki debut – nosed ahead briefly but couldn’t stop Razgatlioglu and van der Mark reclaiming first and second respectively in the next two bends.

They were positions they’d hold right up to the final corner, only for van der Mark run wide on the entry to the left-hander, allowing Lowes and Redding through and putting them right on the tail of Razgatlioglu as they raced to the finish line for the final time.

Inching closer as they neared the chequered flag, it wasn’t quite enough for them to deny Razgatlioglu only his third career WorldSBK win and his first as a Yamaha rider.

Lowes held on for second place to mark an excellent first outing with Kawasaki, while Redding can take heart from a battling third place result on his WorldSBK debut. van der Mark had to make do with fourth, himself just 0.137secs shy of the win.

Though unable to keep pace with the leaders in the final laps, Leon Haslam nonetheless gave the new Honda CBR1000RR-R a strong debut in fifth place, while Alvaro Bautista delivered a superb performance to finish sixth from 15th on the grid following his crash in qualifying.

Loris Baz paid the price for running off track having run with the leaders early on, the Frenchman recovering to seventh ahead of Chaz Davies in a distant eighth and a fading Sykes in ninth.

Michael Ruben Rinaldi picked up a top ten finish for GOELEVEN Ducati, just ahead of the man he replaced in the team, Eugene Laverty.

With all 15 finishers getting points for their efforts, Sandro Cortese and Federico Caricasulo secured 12th and 13th, ahead of Garrett Gerloff in 14th. The rookie American ran as high as seventh early on aboard the GRT Yamaha but dropped back in the closing stages. Maximilian Scheib was 15th after running off track.

Beyond Rea, Xavi Fores failed to finish after a crash at Turn 2, while Takumi Takahashi retired with technical issues.