Well what an opening round we had at Philip Island. Jules had the pace from the word go. He qualified 2nd and led the race until it was red flagged, easily controlling the race and not pushing to his limit.
After the restart the same pattern followed until Jules hit a false neutral into turn 1 and ran wide, dropping him to 7th with only 3 laps left. The way he got back through, without causing problems for other riders, to grab 3rd into turn 10, the bottom of Lucky Heights, giving him the chance for victory on the run to the line was a credit to his riding closely in a race with other riders.
This is where the big problem started. An out-of-control Frederico Caricasulo had a slide at the top of Lucky Heights and instead of rolling off and settling for the best result possible, he decided to open the throttle again, arriving at the bottom into the tight left way way too fast and hit Jules so hard he high sided in a big way. Had Jules not been there, for sure he would have just run straight off the track. This reckless action took both riders out and indeed injured Jules which, at first put in doubt him being able to ride in Thailand. Now heading into this race he has worked hard to make a good recovery and although not 100% he is confident he can challenge again for victory after Caricasulo robbed him of this in Australia.
This was wild but the Teammate of Caricasulo, Lucas Mahais then proceeded to run Robbie Rolfo onto the grass, flat out in 6th on the dash to the line.
Whilst it is great to see Yamaha back in the World Supersport championship, after this race, one would question their choice of riders.
Alex Baldolini was so incensed by the tactics of Caricasulo he came to us and wanted to go to race direction as this sort of dangerous riding will have far worse consequences if it is allowed to continue. We were all very grateful for his support and of course his much better view of what really happened looking so closely from behind the incident. Indeed, he was also forced onto the grass and dropped to 13th so another victim of bad riding.
Dorna do a great job and so do the FIM so I was expecting quite severe penalties for both Yamaha riders. I was amazed to hear no penalty at all for Caricasulo and only 1 second and a small financial fine for Mahais. This does not discourage this type of riding which, whilst producing spectacular viewing, will not end well if allowed to continue. I know the GRT Yamaha team have spoken at least with Caricasulo and I hope very much he has learned a lesson and will ride in a more professional way going forward. Maybe race direction should consider examining riders’ data in instances like this to help them make the best decision.
It is a bit like football; if the penalty is not severe enough then certain riders will continue to use unprofessional and dangerous tactics. The same applies to Qualifying and the free practices that decide the top ten for final qualifying. We still see the same riders just hanging around, looking for a tow as they cannot do it on their own. This leads to the situation in Philip Island where there were only 12 riders on track and they are all in a group. We talked about this in the riders briefing but obviously the same riders who do this all the time must be deaf. This will only get worse in Europe when the grid increases to 35 riders with the European cup included.
As I said I think all of race direction do a good job in difficult circumstances. Our team support them in cracking down, with much stiffer penalties for the sort of tactics used by Caricasulo and Mahais in the race, and riders slowing faster riders to gain advantage on practice and qualifying.
To finish; Hikari was unlucky to crash in Superpole 2 after just one lap and break his collar bone. Even then his one lap was enough for 10th fastest, showing his high potential for a great year. Thanks to the doctors in Australia for doing a great job plating his broken bone which hopefully will allow him to ride this week.
Robin was indeed lucky to escape injury from a big high side out of turn 6; as was the close-following Gino Rea who clipped his bike as it catapulted off the track, destroying itself in a big way. I have to say Robin did more damage in one crash than we see all season from most riders. The damage was the most I have seen in the 10 years of our team in one go. A shame as he started the race well in the top ten. I am sure if he calms down just a little we will see true points and top ten potential from Robin going forward.
Here is to more great, but safe racing for the rest of the season.