24 February 2019
Debutante Alvaro Bautista has stunned the WorldSBK paddock after decimating the field in a clean sweep of race wins at the opening round of the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship at Australia’s Phillip Island today.
Just like he did in yesterday’s longer race one of the Yamaha Finance round, the 34-year-old Spaniard got the holeshot from the front row of the grid at the island and was untouchable on the Panigale V4 R.
He increased his lead by about one second per lap over the battling Kawasaki pair of Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, and coasted over the finish line to make it three wins from as many starts.
As well as imposing victories in the two 22-lap races, Bautista also prevailed in the all-new 10-lap sprint race, which was held earlier today.
“If someone had told me before Philip Island that we’d have a weekend like this I wouldn’t have believed them,” said Bautista. “Mt team has worked really well, and this weekend we were ready for a fight.
“I pushed a little harder than yesterday’s 22-lap race, as I knew Johnny (Rea) would try and stay with me like he did in the sprint race.
“Thanks to Ducati and the while team, because they have all worked so hard.”
In the final race Rea finished second, ahead of Haslam and the Yamaha trio of Michael van der Mark, Alex Lowes and Marco Melandri.
Chaz Davies (Ducati), Sandro Cortese (Yamaha), Eugene Laverty (Ducati) and Leon Camier (Honda) saw out the top 10.
With Bautista doing as he pleased at the front, the main interest in race three was the hard and clean battle between Rea and Haslam, with Melandri also latched onto the Kawasaki pair for a number of laps.
Rea managed to build a small but decisive break on the final lap, while Melandri had fallen into the clutches of van der Mark and Lowes – ultimately being overtaken by both of them at the death knell.
Rea was magnanimous in defeat, in what he described as a weekend of “damage limitation”.
“Congratulations to Alvaro; it takes a big job to come here as a rookie and win three races in a row,” said Rea. “I was very happy with my weekend. It was a massive damage limitation coming here, as it’s really not the strongest track for me or my bike.
“To come away with an outright lap record, pole position and three second places – we couldn’t ask for much more.”
Sixteen riders made the distance in race three, with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki) and Aussie Troy Herfoss (Honda) pulling out with mechanical issues, while Alessandro Delbianco (Honda) crashed.
After one of 13 rounds, Bautista leads the 2019 WorldSBK title on 62pts from Rea (49), Melandri (30), Lowes (30), van der Mark (29), Haslam (24), Cortese (19), Davies (15), Tom Sykes (BMW, 12) and Laverty (12).
Round two will be held at the Chang circuit in Thailand from March 15-17.
World Superbike – round one - Race 3 – 22 laps
1. Alvaro Bautista Ducati
2. Jonathan Rea Kawasaki +12.195s
3. Leon Haslam Kawasaki +12.454
4. Michael van der Mark Yamaha +16.574
5. Alex Lowes Yamaha +16.859
6. Marco Melandri Yamaha +17.329
7. Chaz Davies Ducati +26.823
8. Sandro Cortese Yamaha +27.580
9. Eugene Laverty Ducati +29.116
10. Leon Camier Honda +29.178
Australian wildcard Troy Herfoss – Honda Retired on lap 5