Superbike, Phillip Island: the first race weekend of the year and a first podium for Nolan Group!
The first weekend of the Superbike World Championship, as always, at Phillip Island, brought with it much excitement and eagerness. Lots of news on the drivers along with new rules to adapt to, was sure to make for an interesting weekend.
We are familiar with the Nolan Group riders but there were many new faces on the grid across the races. Less familiar however are the qualifying sessions, with the Race One grid now decided by the performance in the Tissot Superpole. It will also decide the grid placement for the new Superpole Race an opportunity for the riders to gain additional championship points!
As for how the weekend went, for Nolan Group riders it was certainly a mix, with Melandri getting his first podium finish in the very first race of the year – a good start! But difficulties for Chaz, adapting to the changes with the bike, as with Camier & Rinaldi, but there is a long way to go yet in the 2019 season! In Supersport however, Caricasulo picked up a 3rd place finish, starting his season well!
Next round up is Thailand, more warm weather for the riders, we hope it will coincide with improvement to the weather for us too!
Marco Melandri – Race1: THIRD
This was an amazing race for me because throughout the test and the weekend I was struggling a lot on a new tyre. But from the first few laps of the race I understood that I was feeling much better and even with the new tyre I was losing not so much from the top. I was sure that when the fuel load reduced and the tyre dropped down then I’d feel more comfortable. Once I passed van der Mark my pace was much better and my confidence was increasing every lap. When I arrived behind Alex he slowed a lot, I think he had problems with the rear tyre, and when I passed him he tried to push back and we had a crazy last lap, passing each other four times. I knew I was a bit faster than him in the final corner, but I couldn’t wait for the exit like last year because it was very windy and it was difficult to keep the bike stable, so I changed strategy and went into the corner up the inside and very fast and I think I caught him by surprise. It’s an awesome podium for me, for the team and for Yamaha and I’m so happy, but now we have to continue trying to improve.
Marco Melandri – Race2: SIXTH
Today I was expecting a bit more. In the Superpole Race I made a few mistakes at the beginning and lost a some positions. I tried to come back but it was a really short race. In Race 2 I got a good start and I had good pace in the beginning. Once I caught the two Kawasakis I decided to wait a bit because for the tyre it’s a very difficult race. When Johnny passed Leon for the first time I tried to push into the middle, but the rear tyre left me there and I had to slow down my pace and just try to finish the race. Unfortunately Van der Mark and Lowes passed me back, but I still think that for us it’s been a very good weekend. It’s been a difficult winter but the races are different, so I’m feeling good and I think the next races can be even better.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi – Race1: NINTH
“To be the first race I think we can be satisfied with the result. I am very happy with the work done both in the tests and during the tests because it allowed us to be fast in the last part of the race. The initial phase, however, was a bit ‘too slow and this has compromised the result. Tomorrow we know starting from a good base and we will try to conquer an even better position.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi – Superpole Race: EIGHTH, Race 2: SIXTEENTH
“The overall opinion on the weekend is positive, we have always been growing until the race this morning where I managed to go strong, but in race 2, despite a good start, I immediately realized that something was wrong. to stay on track, but just a few laps from the end I had to stop at the pit and I wanted to get back to finish the race, but at that point the result was compromised, now we will try to understand what happened to make the inconvenience not occurring again.”
Chaz Davies – Race1: TENTH
“For me it was rather a disappointing race. Initially I was quite happy and after a good start I more or less maintained the pace with a decent group. Then I suddenly had such a massive drop of rear grip, so much so that I felt like I was riding in sand: we’ll have to look at the data to figure out why it was like that. I know how to manage a race at Phillip Island and I felt like I was relatively conservative for most of the race, but I hit trouble at two-thirds race distance and wasn’t expecting it. It shows we are inexperienced with this new bike; I had a pace that I thought could see us into the top 6 but that wasn’t the case today.”
Chaz Davies – Race2: SEVENTH
“We managed to make some progress in race 2 and I felt a bit better with the V4 R, which is the most important thing. After yesterday’s result, we had nothing to lose so the guys in the team made some major changes that allowed me to slightly improve my race pace. I’m still a bit disappointed because we didn’t expect this result, but we picked up a lot of useful data to understand what I need for the next race. My congratulations to Álvaro, because he was really impressive all throughout the weekend.”
Leon Camier – Race 1: DNF
“The crash honestly is hard to understand because I didn’t do anything different there, and I just lost the front through turn 2. It’s frustrating as I was feeling really good on the bike. I felt it was working even better than I expected it to in the race, and I definitely had the pace of the guys I was running with. I had just passed Chaz (Davies) and was catching Melandri and Van Der Mark, and my pace was pretty decent. Starting from tenth on the grid makes it more difficult of course, and it wasn’t easy to pass Chaz, but I think that ultimately I could have been in the group with Marco (Melandri). I don’t know how the tire would have lasted, but I don’t think it would have been too bad. Anyway, now we need to concentrate on tomorrow.”
Leon Camier – Superpole Race: THIRTEENTH, Race2: TENTH
“Yesterday I felt really good and felt we had the potential to be pushing with Melandri and Cortese, but in this morning’s race I didn’t have the same feeling and struggled to do what I wanted on track. This afternoon I felt better on the bike, but I lost some time early on and that did not help of course. There are still a few areas where we are losing in fact. We have definitely made some progress over the weekend, some really good progress. But we have still work to do to get to where we want be. It will be a step by step process of improving.”
Federico Caricasulo: THIRD
“It was a perfect weekend, except for the tire change. I had my birthday present in Randy, losing precious seconds that I could not recover after returning to the track, even though I pushed hard. My tactic was to stay with my teammate and then attack him and play the victory in the last laps. It was not possible, but nothing is compromised because we are only at the first race of the championship.