Andrea Iannone shines in his WorldSBK debut with a podium at Phillip Island

Andrea Iannone shines in his WorldSBK debut with a podium at Phillip Island

Andrea Iannone made his WorldSBK Championship debut at Phillip Island, converting a surprising front row start into a historic podium almost four and a half years after his last competitive race.

Andrea Iannone proved on Saturday that he remains in possession of his remarkable riding skills after four years as he finished third in the 2024 WorldSBK championship’s opening race at Phillip Island after constantly running within the leading pack and occasionally even taking the lead.

The Team GoEleven rider was serving a four-year suspension for doping that happened in 2019. As a result, he had to not only overcome the difficult task of getting back into competitive form but also get acquainted with a new championship as he had been racing in MotoGP where the machines are considerably different from those in WorldSBK.

Iannone has demonstrated that he could potentially be fast on the Ducati Panigale V4 R following the first test at the end of last year. But racing is always different, and everyone was curious to find out what he could be able to accomplish and his skills are now readily apparent.

Despite a prolonged break from the tracks Iannone is still competitive at 34 years old and capable of challenging for impressive results.

He was only 2.630s behind winner Nicolò Bulega (Aruba.it Ducati), and only 0.350s behind second place finisher Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) in the first race at Phillip Island.

Iannone demonstrated that he is a rider to watch in the battle for the top spots in 2024 by overcoming factory riders Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW) and Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) in a one-on-one battle at Phillip Island.

Although the Team Go Eleven Ducati rider was momentarily passed by Alex Lowes dropping to third, he quickly recovered to take the lead on lap two, which he would hold until lap seven when Bulega overcame him.

Given that Iannone’s inexperience with WorldSBK equipment infrequently cost him, especially right after the pit stop when he tried to get his tyres to temperature as well as his error while braking when pursuing Andrea Locatelli, he still battled with Bulega and Locatelli for the fastest laps and frequently closed the gap on rivals after they passed him.

Alongside Bulega, Iannone became one of the few riders in WorldSBK history to finish on the podium in their debut event.

Excited with the outcome, Iannone—dubbed “Crazy Joe” and “The Maniac” for his more aggressive riding style in the grand prix paddock—was taken aback by the outpouring support he received from fans following such a long hiatus.

“It’s incredible for me; I didn’t expect this comeback and I’m living the dream,” Iannone said after the race. “When you have a feeling with the bike it’s important but for me, it’s fantastic to be at this level.

“I saw a lot of support from other people and this is more important than the level that I’m at now. It’s pure energy for me after all these years.

“The race was much better and when I was leading, I was full of emotions and it was a little bit ‘wow, a shock!’. I made a mistake twice but we’re not at 100% with the engine braking.

“For the start, it’s OK! Tomorrow is a different day so we’ll try to improve but without any stress. It’s important that we smile right now and enjoy this.”

Besides Iannone’s individual achievement, the outcome also marks Team Go Eleven’s first podium since 2021.

Leave a Reply