THE MANIAC HAS COME TO TOWN: P3 for Iannone on debut “full of emotions” when leading

Four years away but certainly back to play and in the thick of the feisty action, Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) returned to World Championship competition with emotion, flare and charisma at Phillip Island. His first race day was the moment he’d been waiting for and at one of his most successful circuits, ‘The Maniac’ was always going to be strong. However, after an incredible charge to second on the grid – forming the first-ever rookie 1-2 on the grid for their debut round – he converted it into a first podium having led numerous laps, finishing P3 at the chequered flag.

FIRST RACE DAY IN OVER FOUR YEARS: front row and rostrum

The strong start for ‘Crazy Joe’ got underway at Phillip Island in the Tissot Superpole session, where he went provisionally pole before fellow rookie Italian debutant Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati) stormed to pole. P2 for Iannone was nonetheless a massive surprise and a welcome return to form, becoming the – ironically – 29th rider to achieve a front row in both MotoGP™ and WorldSBK.

The race itself was always going to be eventful for Iannone and it was no different – albeit local wildlife and seagull population were not impacted. He grabbed the holeshot with a mega launch from his P2 starting place; he was passed by Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) just before the end of the opening lap but before the end of Lap 2, he was back ahead and for the first time in over seven years, led a race across the finish line. He led until just before the pitstops, when Bulega came by whilst Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was right there.

COSTLY MISTAKES: P3 but perhaps what could have been?

Iannone stayed in contention for second place but it was Bulega who checked out at the front. A mistake at Turn 4 on his first lap after the pitstops dropped him down to P4 from P2 and lost him valuable time but he fought back into P2 when challenging Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha). However, he made another mistake with just a handful of laps remaining, ending any hopes of second but he was a solid third at the flag for his first podium in over five years, leading to joyous scenes in his pit box and when the team made their way to Parc Ferme.

“IT’S INCREDIBLE FOR ME… PURE ENERGY” – emotional Iannone’s first words after first podium

Speaking about his debut WorldSBK podium, Iannone was absolutely thrilled: “It’s incredible for me; I didn’t expect this comeback and I’m living the dream. When you have a feeling with the bike it’s important but for me, it’s fantastic to be at this level. I saw a lot of support from other people and this is more important than the level that I’m at now. It’s pure energy for me after all these years. The race was much better and when I was leading, I was full of emotions and it was a little bit ‘wow, a shock!’. I made a mistake twice but we’re not at 100% with the engine braking. For the start, it’s OK! Tomorrow is a different day so we’ll try to improve but without any stress. It’s important that we smile right now and enjoy this.”

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