All three Australian wildcards exit Saturday's opening affair.
Experienced Italian Marco Melandri has taken out the opening race of the 2018 Motul Superbike World Championship, a strong way to get his season underway in the Yamaha Finance-backed Phillip Island round.
Superpole winner Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) controlled the 22-lap affair from the front, only to be chased down and passed by Melandri on lap 19. He went on to win by 1.180s.
It was a convincing result for Melandri – winner of the Australian MotoGP in 2006 – as teammate Chaz Davies completed the podium, holding Barni Racing Ducati’s Xavi Fores at bay in the closing stages. The latter was top of the newly-formed Independent entries.
Champion Jonathan Rea was in contention early, however he encountered rear tyre troubles, fading to cross the line fifth on his ZX-10RR. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha), Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda), Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia), Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha) and Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing Kawasaki) completed the top 10.
All three of the Australian wildcards exited the race, with Wayne Maxwell (Yamaha Racing Team) crashing out on lap two, Daniel Falzon (Yamaha Racing Team) retiring from the rear of the field at midway and Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda Racing) – after running as high as P16 – stopped with three laps remaining.