In the first round of the 2017 World Superbike championship it was the same old story, but with a brand new script. Just as in last year's Phillip Island opener, reigning champion Jonathan Rea on his Kawasaki ZX 10RR stormed to a double victory. Only this year his race two victory came after starting race two from ninth place on the grid - under the new regulations, his penalty for winning race one.
Under the new rules for 2107, those who finish race one in positions one to three have their position reversed and they then move back to row three (positions seven to nine) with rows two and three (positions four to nine) moving up three places.
In Australia, this meant that fourth-place finisher in the first race, Yamaha-mounted Alex Lowes, started race two from pole position. It's all in the name of making the racing more interesting and attracting more fans.
Cream rises to the top, or so the saying goes. To a large extent race two bore that out, with Rea coming through from ninth on the grid to claim the victory and Chaz Davies on the Ducati Panigale, who finished second in race one and consequently started race two eighth on the grid next to Rea, came through the field and finished second in race two also.
Rea's team-mate Tom Sykes could only manage sixth place in race two, a one-place gain on his grid position. Lowes couldn't take advantage of his pole position start in race two, having to settle for fourth after a late challenge from ex-MotoGP star Marco Melandri on a Ducati.
Kawasaki will be confident heading to the Chang International Circuit in Thailand or this weekend's two races. The team has won all four races held at the circuit, achieving a double 1 -2 finish last year. Its domination extends to recording the fastest lap in every race, as well as leading every single lap of all four races.
Rea’s nearest contender after the first round, Chaz Davies, knows he will have to improve on last year's showing of fourth and third if Rea is not to open up an early season lead.
One team looking for improvement in round two will be the Red Bull Honda duo of Stephan Bradl and Nicky Hayden. Last year was Hayden’s first visit to the circuit, with Bradl making his first visit this year. Added to the lack of circuit experience for the pair, this year's bike is all new - based on results from Phillip Island, Honda has much catching up to do with the likes of Kawasaki and Ducati. After the first round Hayden and Bradl find themselves in 15th and 18th in the standings. Their best finish was Hayden's 11th in race one.
After one round the championship already has a familiar look, with British riders occupying the top four positions, with another, Leon Camier, on an MV Agusta in sixth.
2017 World Superbike Championship standings
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 50 points
2. Chaz Davies (Ducati) 40
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 26
4. Alex Lowes (Yamaha) 26
5. Xavi Fores (Ducati) 21
6. Leon Camier (MV Agusta) 19
In the suppporting Supersport class, rivals of reigning champion Kenan Sofuoglu will once again have the opportunity to steal a march on the Kawasaki-mounted Turkish rider - Sofuoglu will sit out the race thanks to the hand injury he sustained in pre-season testing.
He could be a full 50 points behind Roberto Rolfo should the series leader follow up his win from Australia with another victory in Thailand this weekend.
Sofuoglu will take heart from the fact that after two rounds last year he was 18 points adrift of the then series leader Randy Krummenacher, who went on to finish the season in third place, 76 points adrift of Sofuoglu.
British Rider Kyle Ryde will be happy with his debut as Sofuoglu's Kawasaki team-mate. Ryde rode for three different manufacturers in 2016, with a best finish of 11th on a Kawasaki. He should fare better this year as part of the established Kawasaki team - and having reigning champion Sofuoglu for guidance.
2017 Supersport Championship standings
1. Roberto Rolfo (MV Agusta) 25 points
2. Lucas Mihias (Yamaha) 20
3. Anthony West (Yamaha) 16
4. Kyle Ryde (Kawasaki) 13
5. Niki Tulli (Yamaha) 11
6. PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta) 10.
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