23 February 2019
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. It is the second biggest winning margin in Phillip Island’s 56 WorldSBK race history.*
It was also the perfect debut for Ducati’s all-new Panigale V4 R, which has well and truly thrown down the gauntlet to the dominant force in WorldSBK competition over recent years, Kawasaki, that the 2019 season is going to be a tough one.
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).
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.
Race two, the all-new 10-lap sprint, will be held at midday on Sunday; followed by race three, another 22-lap battle for the world’s leading production bike riders at 3pm Sunday.
Sunday tickets for world superbikes at Phillip Island’s Yamaha Finance round available at the Gate from 8am Sunday.
* Australia’s Anthony Gobert owns the mark, after he won by 26 seconds on the Bimota way back in 2000.
WorldSBK Race One Results
1. Alvaro Bautista Ducati
2. Jonathan Rea Kawasaki +14.983s
3. Marco Melandri Yamaha +16.934s
4. Alex Lowes Yamaha +16.984s
5. Michael van der Mark Yamaha +19.179s
6. Toprak Razgatlioglu Kawasaki +21.203s
7. Tom Sykes BMW +21.488s
8. Sandro Cortese Yamaha +23.018s
9. Michael Rinaldi Ducati +25.580s
10. Chaz Davies Ducati +27.124s
Retired Troy Herfoss Honda after 16 laps (Australian wild card)