PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia – Jonathan Rea kicked off defense of his 2015 World Superbike championship with an incredible last lap victory over Ducati rider Chaz Davies on Saturday in the opening race of the season at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit.
The Kawasaki rider pulled a move around the outside to beat Davies to the line by .063 of a second.
After a great start for both Kawasaki ZX-10Rs, teammates Tom Sykes and Rea went almost side-by-side into the Southern Loop as the first lap of the 2016 season got underway. The lead group off the line was led by the Kawasaki pair, with Davies getting an amazing launch from ninth on the grid to join his teammate Davide Giugliano and Honda rider Michael Van Der Mark in the battle at the front.
Sykes lead the group as the Ducatis dueled behind him and Rea, with Van Der Mark joining the fun. Sykes, after losing the lead to Rea, then dropped back, leaving the two Aruba.it Ducati riders to tousle with van der Mark in the lead group of four led by Rea.
Rea led the way as the war raged behind him, with the lead group becoming a trio as Davies and Van Der Mark proved the only two able to keep the pace of the reigning champion. Holding the lead but with both riders behind breathing down his neck, Rea kept his race rhythm going as those behind him continued to play cat and mouse with each other. As the laps ticked down, Davies got closer and started to seriously pressure the Kawasaki rider, seeming to be attempting to test any possible passes he had in mind for the last lap.
On that last lap Davies pounced down the hill from Lukey Heights, taking the lead just before the final corner, but Rea took the outside line and blasted around the Ducati through the final turn, the two bikes straightening up on the Gardner Straight with almost nothing between them. It was the flash of Kawasaki green over the line first, however, as Rea’s run around the outside proved to give him the pace necessary to nudge the nose of the Kawasaki over the line first.
Van Der Mark came home third behind the two of them, recording his fourth career podium in only his second season.