Race Reviews

Bautista romps to WorldSBK victory

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Spaniard Alvaro Bautista has become the first rookie to win a maiden WorldSBK race in 12 years after utterly dominating the season opener of the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, Yamaha Finance round, at Phillip Island this afternoon.

In perfect conditions, the factory Ducati rider led from start to finish in the 22-lap race to win by nearly 15 seconds over world champion and polesitter Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki), while the fast-finishing Italian Marco Melandri (Yamaha) was third.

Bautista can now claim the largest winning margin on a dry track at Phillip Island*, while it was also the perfect debut for the all-new Ducati V-four, which has well and truly thrown down the gauntlet to Kawasaki – the dominant force in WorldSBK competition over recent years – that the 2019 season is going to be a tough one.

“I am really happy to start my WorldSBK career in this way,” said Bautista. “I was quite confident for the race, as I my pace was good in practice.

“I got into a good rhythm from the start and I saw my gap was increasing over the other riders every lap, so I tried to manage the tyres and save a little bit for the end of the race.

“I want to say thanks to Ducati and my team, because we worked really hard over the pre-season to give me a very fast motorcycle that I already feel very comfortable on.”

While Bautista put on a masterclass to become the first Spanish winner at Phillip Island since 2012 – as well as the first rookie to win on debut since 2007 – the battle for second position was intense and included Rea and his teammate Leon Haslam, as well as 22-year-old Turk Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki), Alex Lowes (Yamaha) and Tom Sykes (BMW).

After Haslam crashed out of second position at turn four on lap 13, the chasing pack began to splinter with Rea and Lowes going it alone while Razgatlioglu and Sykes were in close company.

Rea eventually found some space to lock in second place, while 2018 double winner Melandri was coming through the pack after being as far back as eighth in the early stages.

Melandri, now on a Yamaha after Bautista replaced him in the Ducati factory squad, eventually pipped Lowes for third, while Michael van der Mark (Yamaha) finished fifth ahead of Razgatlioglu, Sykes, 2018 world supersport champion Sandro Cortese (Yamaha), Michael Rinaldi (Ducati) and world No. 2 Chaz Davies (Ducati).

Rea acknowledged he wasn’t at his free-wheeling best today.

“Alvaro rode a really great race,” said Rea. “To be honest, I’ve been riding very tense and scared all weekend after a tough round here last year.

“My target was just to finish the race, but it really wasn’t the most beautiful race as I was riding half-caste the whole time.

“We finished second and won Superpole, so I’m very happy as it’s the best we could have done today.”

Haslam picked up his scarred ZX-10RR to finish in 15th position, while Australia’s Troy Herfoss and Leon Camier (both Honda) retired with mechanical problems.

Seventeen riders completed the journey.