With the first round of the 2017 World Superbike championship done and dusted - and with a double victory under his belt for defending world champion Jonathan Rea - MCN are delighted to have signed up the factory Kawasaki rider for his very own column exclusive to us!
The week couldn’t have gone much better in Phillip Island! Testing started pretty cool, and we just really continued on with our test plan from the winter tests. We’ve been testing for this year and the new rules since the middle of last year, with single throttle motors, adding the generator back on, things like that, so we’ve had a handle on it for a while.
We’ve never managed to have the best test or the best race weekend at Phillip Island before and only ever put it together for the race, but this year it went well right from the start. I shied away from doing any race runs because I knew we were possibly the strongest – but I did give it a bit of a run in FP3 just for my own confidence. The pace from that was incredible, so I knew I could race for the win.
Race one was a bit of a procession. Everyone had a bit of a spell at the front, but the pace was super slow, which meant that I was able to sit happy and conserve my tyres. It was about a second slower than our potential, so I had time to make a strategy towards the end.
I could tell that Chaz’s was quite similar except he didn’t want to come to the front until the very end. I had to be conscious not to get caught with my pants down, and it was just a case of not making mistakes where my bike was strong. I knew if I could lead into the last corner, get there first and cover the right side of the track I’d be ok, and both races really played out that way.
To start with two wins is incredible – what everyone wants – but it’s a long season. We’ve got two boxed off with 50 points and that’s target one, so we just have to go to a track that we know our bike works well at and that I’ve had a decent past at in Thailand.
With the new grid format - if starting ninth and winning the race was going to work anywhere, it was Phillip Island. Your main competitors are starting alongside you, so it’s just a case of getting through traffic. It’s going to be so important to have the bike in the ballpark with a good base setting because if you’re going to struggle and try to grind out a win, it’ll be hard in race two from the third row.
I don’t think we can look into Tom’s race too much because historically Phillip Island hasn’t been his strongest track, but he found it tough coming through traffic. I don’t know if that’s a trait of his or just a Phillip Island thing. It’s important to come through clean because if you’re under pressure you’re exposed to more risk.
I expect it’s not going to change the championship standings too much, though. It put a few different people at the very front at the start of the race, though. It is a bit strange, though, and I need to work on my starts because we got let down a bit by them
I’m staying in Phillip Island for a few more days now, then on Thursday the family and I are flying up to Thailand for a few days’ holiday in Phuket. It’s pretty hard being on the road so much, so over the last few years I’ve learned to enjoy the lifestyle a little bit too, because it’s a lot of airports, hotels and race circuits, so at least with the fly-aways in quick succession means we can have a bit of a holiday. One of my mechanics, Arturo (the only single one!) is heading to Thailand with us too, so hopefully we can steer him away from the hellish parts of Thailand - but we’ll see!
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