Kawasaki Puccetti Racing's Japanese challenger Hikari Okubo scored a career best sixth place in today's flag-to-flag WorldSSP race at Phillip Island in Australia. His new team-mate Lucas Mahias was on course for a good finish but eventually left Australia with a 12th place result in his first race for the team, after suffering a time penalty.
After concerns were raised about potential tire life over the planned 18-lap race in the WorldSSP class, the teams and riders knew from early in the weekend that they would take part in a two-part race, over 16 laps, with a mandatory tire change at mid-race distance, sometime between lap six and 10.
Okubo, who had qualified eighth, and top Kawasaki rider, was also to finish top Kawasaki rider in the race. He took a sixth place for the second time in his career. This being the first round of the championship, he is also in sixth place overall in the points table.
Unfortunately for Mahias, his strong ride ended with a time penalty for exiting pit lane too early after his mandatory tire change. With tougher penalties in place this year he was finally given a 19.565 second penalty, putting him down in 12th place. Without this penalty he would have been fighting for at top six finish.
The Kawasaki Puccetti Racing duo now head to the Chang International Circuit in Thailand for round two, to be held between the 15th and the 17th of March.
Hikari Okubo, stated: "I was not so bad today because sixth position is our best finish so far. It was a very strange race because it was in two parts, with a tire change in the middle - and the conditions were hot. The high track temperatures may have caused some chattering from the bike. During the previous sessions my position was always between around fifth and eighth, so the race result was pretty much in line with the pace in practice."
Lucas Mahias stated: "Today's race was a difficult one. I expected to finish in the top five and tried to do my best. I was doing OK and understanding a lot more about the bike. But I'm very angry about the penalty. I've lost a lot of points because of a small mistake. Anyway, it is Buriram next and the Thai track is normally a good one for the bike. The event is a good one with lots of fans, so we need to look ahead and focus on the next round."
Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team Kawasaki) also received a time penalty for leaving pit lane too early but he finished up 14th, scoring two championship points. Ayrton Badovini (Team Pedercini Racing Kawasaki) took a single point for 15th place. Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) was 17th today.