UPS AND DOWNS: debuts to remember, returning to winning ways and a difficult round for some in Australia

The 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship kicked off in style at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, with the legendary circuit not disappointing. It’s a season-opener that’ll live long in the memory thanks to stunning overtakes, dream debuts and much, much more. With the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round now in the history books, let’s take a look at some of the ups and downs that emerged from Round 1 of 2024.

ALEX LOWES BACK ON TOP: first wins since 2020 for the Kawasaki star

With Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) effectively becoming KRT’s team leader, and switching crew chiefs to work with Pere Riba, all eyes were on the #22 to see how he’d fare in Australia. The answer? Almost perfectly. Third on the grid set him up nicely for Race 1, and he finished fourth, but Sunday he was back on top. Almost four years on from his last win, he won the Tissot Superpole Race and followed this up with victory in Race 2, moving into the lead on the final lap with an audacious move around the outside of Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) at Lukey Heights.

BULEGA’S BRILLIANCE: a debut pole and win

Nicolo Bulega ( Racing – Ducati) came into the Australian Round full of confidence, after topping the majority of test days. The #11 put it on pole in the Tissot Superpole session with a 1’27.916s, the first sub-1’28s of Phillip Island. He was able to convert that into a Race 1 victory despite dropping back in the first half of the race, using his pace well around the mandatory pit stop window to fight for victory. He secured two more top-five finishes on Sunday, with ‘Bulegas’ showing he’ll be there or there abouts in 2024.

IANNONE’S BACK: like he’d never been away

After no competitive riding for four years, it’s possible to think someone may have lost their edge. Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) hasn’t. Like Bulega, the Italian was quick through testing but, as the old adage goes, testing is testing and racing is racing. The round came, and Iannone’s pace was still there. He provisionally went pole position before taking P2 on the grid and secured a first podium in Race 1. An issue in the Superpole Race dropped him down the order, but in Race 2, he battled back to fourth.

WHAT COULD’VE BEEN: Locatelli, Razgatlioglu retire in Race 2

It had been a strong weekend for Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha), challenging for the win in all three races. However, attempting to pass Alex Lowes at Turn 4 on the final lap in Race 2, he ran wide and crashed from third. A disappointing end to a stunning weekend for ‘Loka’. His former teammate, Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), enjoyed a strong debut BMW weekend. A podium in the Superpole Race was the highlight but he was challenging for a rostrum in Race 2 before an engine issue forced him out of the race.

WEEKENDS TO FORGET: difficulty Down Under for several…

Jonathan Rea’s switch to the Pata Prometeon Yamaha team and his debut was much anticipated, but it turned into a bit of a damp squib. He took 11th in Superpole and in the Superpole Race, but that was as good as it got. Race 2 came to an end when he crashed at Turn 11, with the six-time Champion providing an update following the crash. Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) celebrated his birthday on track, but that was really as good as it got for the home hero aside from P7 in Superpole. He retired from Race 1 but was sixth in the Superpole Race, before taking 12th in Race 2; he was last on the grid for the restarted race after making contact with Rea’s bike during his crash, before fighting back. Elsewhere, Honda’s struggles continued with Team HRC and Xavi Vierge, with the Spaniard taking a best of tenth in the flag-to-flag Race 1, while Scott Redding (Bonovo Action BMW) left Australia as the lowest-placed BMW rider in the standings.

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