Yes it crept up on me and I only realised it when looking through the TV Guide just now.
In fact Race 1 is on in an hour or so. (3.00pm local time) We have just had WSBK and WSSP pole sessions.
Video preview of the weekend: http://www.worldsbk.com/en/videos/2019/ ... est_videos
https://www.foxsports.com.au/motorsport ... 6d3a8970efThe World Superbike Championship revs up again this weekend for the start of the 2019 season at Phillip Island, and it could be a momentous year for the sport.
The thing I am looking forward to most is the man who has dominated the sport for the last half a decade – Jonathan Rea – and if he can continue to do so against some new threats.
Rea starts out to defend his fourth consecutive WSBK championship at The Island this weekend and while most people would say the pressure is on him as the favourite, I actually think the pressure rests mainly on the shoulders of the rest of the field, the riders attempting to stop him from steamrolling them on his Kawasaki once again and claiming a fifth title in a row.
He is on a red-hot winning streak, having won the last 11 races of last season but was knocked down to fourth during the official tests last week at Phillip Island.
Rea had a slow start by his standards last year, finishing fifth and second at The Island to double winner Marco Melandri, yet went onto dominate the championship thereafter.
He did have a small crash on Turn 10 on Monday morning and I have started to notice some cracks appearing but we will have to wait until Saturday and Sunday’s first races of the season to find out for sure. No doubt they will be thrillers.
The man who topped those tests at Phillip Island this year, and broke Melandri’s race-lap record from Race 2 last year in the process, is ex-MotoGP rider Alvaro Bautista on his all-new Ducati Panigale V4 R, and in my opinion Rea’s biggest challenge this year.
Catch coverage of the WSBK championship at Phillip Island LIVE with no ad-breaks during racing. Get it all on Foxtel
Bautista filled in for the injured Jorge Lorenzo at last year’s Phillip Island MotoGP on a factory Ducati and put in a stellar showing, finishing fourth, just four second behind winner Marc Marquez. Many people think Alvaro was hard done by not to keep riding in MotoGP but I believe their loss is our gain as he will be a huge draw this year.
Bautista is new to WSBKs and therefore will take some time to get accustomed to the changes, such as switching to Pirelli tyres from Michelin in MotoGP, to steel brakes from carbon fibre and learning some unfamiliar circuits.
He will also be adjusting to a completely different race weekend format of qualifying at lunchtime Saturday, a 22-lap Race 1 a 3pm and then Sunday at midday 10-lap Superpole race from which the first nine form the Race 2 grid at 3pm.
He will be an unknown quantity however, with not only being new to the sport himself but also riding the brand new Panigale Ducati, of which they have very little previous relevant data to go on. They have some very clever engineers and, personally, I think Bautista is a major championship threat.
We also have some local interest this weekend with Australian wildcards Troy Herfoss in WSBK and Tom Toparis in WSS. They will both have an uphill battle against the world’s best riders on the world’s best bikes but they are in a continual development cycle and trying to bring our local bikes up to the world specifications has historically been all but impossible.
Nevertheless, we wish them all the best and eagerly look forward to what I think will be a stunning start to a competitive season of WSBK.
Qualifying sees a Kawasaki 1-2.
Cla # Rider Bike Time Gap Interval
1 1 United Kingdom Jonathan Rea Kawasaki 1'29.413
2 91 United Kingdom Leon Haslam Kawasaki 1'29.624 0.211 0.211
3 19 Spain Alvaro Bautista Ducati 1'29.729 0.316 0.105
4 66 United Kingdom Tom Sykes Kawasaki 1'29.822 0.409 0.093
5 22 United Kingdom Alex Lowes Yamaha 1'29.987 0.574 0.165
6 11 Germany Sandro Cortese Yamaha 1'30.159 0.746 0.172
7 60 Netherlands Michael van der Mark Yamaha 1'30.361 0.948 0.202
8 21 Italy Michael Ruben Rinaldi Ducati 1'30.390 0.977 0.029
9 33 Italy Marco Melandri Ducati 1'30.401 0.988 0.011
10 2 United Kingdom Leon Camier Honda 1'30.608 1.195 0.207
11 50 Ireland Eugene Laverty Ducati 1'30.730 1.317 0.122
12 81 Spain Jordi Torres Kawasaki 1'30.760 1.347 0.030
13 28 Germany Markus Reiterberger BMW 1'30.900 1.487 0.140
14 54 Turkey Toprak Razgatlioglu Kawasaki 1'31.015 1.602 0.115
15 36 Argentina Leandro Mercado Kawasaki 1'31.062 1.649 0.047
16 7 United Kingdom Chaz Davies Ducati 1'31.587 2.174 0.525
17 23 Japan Ryuichi Kiyonari Honda 1'31.626 2.213 0.039
18 52 Alessandro Delbianco Honda 1'32.135 2.722 0.509
17 Troy Herfoss Honda 1'36.895 7.482 4.760
Full video of Superpole here: http://www.worldsbk.com/en/videos/2019/ ... %20Session