"My target was to squeeze some points… had a lot of fun" – McPhee, Mackenzie react after stunning Race 1 results

Tuesday, 28 February 2023 08:19 GMT

The two debutants had a race to remember in WorldSSP Race 1 after surging from the back of the grid to the top five in an unpredictable fight

There were shocks and surprises during Race 1 of the FIM Supersport World Championship after a red flag and wet weather during the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round led to mixed-up results at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. Two riders to benefit from the wet weather were John McPhee (Vince64 by Puccetti Racing) and Tarran Mackenzie (PETRONAS MIE MS Racing HONDA Team) who scored a podium and fifth place on their WorldSSP debut respectively.

McPhee and Mackenzie started the original race start from 20th and 19th place respectively but a red flag in Race 1 meant McPhee would start the restarted race from third place while Mackenzie was only 18th. McPhee had got a mega start in the original to move into the top three and this would be his catalyst for a debut podium. After the red flag was deployed and during the wait to restart the race, rain began to fall, and tyre choice would become crucial.

The top three in Race 1, which was made up of Nicolo Bulega ( Racing WorldSSP Team), Nicholas Spinelli (VFT Racing Yamaha) and McPhee, all used Pirelli’s rain tyres to full advantage. During the closing stages, riders on intermediate tyres did close the gap to the top three but rain started falling heavier again and those on wet tyres were able to pull away. It meant McPhee was able to claim an unlikely maiden WorldSSP podium on his debut after mastering both the conditions and the tyre choice.

Discussing his podium, McPhee said: “It’s going to take a little while to sink in! Honestly, I felt underprepared for the race with the amount of track time I’ve had on this bike. Coming from ten years with a very small and stiff Moto3™ bike to the WorldSSP machine, I knew it was going to take laps and time to adapt. My expectation or my target was to try and squeeze some points. When the rain came, I thought this was my time to take some risks. The first few laps when it was dry tyres was really exciting. When the race restarted and we had to put the rain tyres on, I thought I might struggle now as I’ve never ridden this bike in the rain. It was wet tyres but a dry suspension setup and I didn’t know where we were going to be at but let’s just dig in and see what we can do. Lap by lap, I had a few moments, but started to understand it and feel my way through. I thought, in the end, if I keep calm it was possible to get a top five or even a podium. Absolutely buzzing to finish top three.

“It was a funny story actually. I told my team to keep the slicks. Then I thought it’s only 10 laps, it’s not going to be long enough to become dry. It was only 10 laps, so I said to put the rain tyres on. When everyone left the grid, I looked around and saw some riders had intermediate tyres. I didn’t even know that was such a thing! In the past, I’ve only used slicks or rain. I started to panic thinking intermediate would’ve been the tyre of choice but let’s go with it. The rain was the one that paid off because five laps from the end, there was another dump and that helped us.”

Mackenzie was unable to make as much progress in the original race start as McPhee did but the 2021 British Superbike champion was able to in the wet restarted race. Like McPhee, Mackenzie opted for Pirelli’s rain tyres and used these to great effect. He was up to eighth by the end of Lap 1 on the restarted 10-lap race, before moving up to seventh a lap later, sixth two laps after that and fifth by the end of the race.

Talking about Race 1, Mackenzie said: “I’m very happy with today’s result of course. The rain meant we had a more level playing field and right from the start, I felt comfortable and was able to push. I definitely need to make the most of this kind of situation moving forward and am pleased that our first race turned out to be a wet one. I didn’t expect that to be the case of course, but I can say that I had a lot of fun and am very happy with fifth in my first race of the season.”

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