WSBK: Bautista the dominant force in Race One at Phillip Island

Discussion in 'Racing' started by Simon, Feb 23, 2019.

  1. Simon

    Simon Professional storyteller
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    Mar 25, 2015
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    The opening race of the 2019 WSBK series was dominated by Alvaro Bautista on his maiden race on the Factory Ducati V4R, who set a scintillating pace and was able to clear off at the front of the pack from lap one. Bautista took the win in a convincing manner, winning by more than 15 seconds to become the first Rookie to win a WSBK race on his debut since Max Biaggi in 2007.

    Off the line for the first time in 2019, Kawasaki’s Leon Haslam got a good start before being sandwiched into Turn 1 by Alvaro Bautista and early race leader and pole-sitter, Jonathan Rea on the other factory Kawasaki. However, Bautista soon blasted into the lead at Turn 3 and from there, built a gap, setting back-to-back fastest laps and building a gap of over eight seconds.

    With Bautista untouchable, the battle for the rest of the field was firmly on who would take second position, with Rea, Haslam and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha) fighting for position. BMW’s Tom Sykes also had a good start to the race, sitting outside the leading group in fifth and chasing the leaders down hard. Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha) was in sixth and made a rampant start, despite opting for a harder compound tyre choice. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) was a big mover and shaker after one lap, up to seventh from 14th on the grid.

    The race evolved and began to take shape, with the Kawasaki duo of Rea and Haslam exchanging position frequently, while Sykes and Lowes also battled hard. Razgatlioglu made massive progress through the field and was soon into fourth place with an exciting move into Turn 1.
    With Haslam managing to get ahead of Rea and pull clear, he crashed out of second at Turn 4, losing the front as he asked to much from the tyres. This left Rea and Lowes at the front of the battle for second position, while Razgatlioglu and Sykes battled hard; the BMW of Sykes struggling to keep Toprak’s Kawasaki behind it on the front straight but then managing to get back ahead at the hairpins.

    Later in the race, Marco Melandri started to make big in-roads to Dutchman, Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha). It wasn’t long before the Italian made his move into sixth place and then chased down the riders ahead of him. Soon, he got ahead of Sykes and then Razgatlioglu at Turn 2 with six laps left, releasing him into clear air to hunt Lowes and the final spot on the podium.

    At the flag and Bautista romped home with 14.9s to spare, a remarkable achievement; one that echoed Anthony Gobert’s dominant victory at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in 2000. Rea took second position and conceded the first race of the season for a second consecutive year. The battle for third saw a remarkable effort from Melandri, hunting down Lowes and finally making his move stick on the final corner to take the final position on the podium.

    Michael van der Mark took fifth place to make it three Yamaha riders inside the top five, with Razgatlioglu completing the top six ahead of Sykes.

    Speaking after the race, Bautista said: I am so happy to start my WorldSBK career this way. I missed the Superpole because I am still not used to work with the Superpole tyres but I was quite confident for the race. I tried to find my rhythm immediately and I found my pace from the beginning. The gap was increasing every lap, so I tried to manage the tyres and save them for the final part of the race. I am really happy and I want to thank Ducati and my team because they did an absolutely amazing job over the winter.”

    With the first race complete for 2019, Bautista becomes the first Spanish Rookie to set a fastest lap at Phillip Island on a Ducati since Ruben Xaus in 2001, while also becoming the first Spanish rider to win a WSBK race since Jordi Torres in 2015 at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.

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