22 February 2019
After topping the final pre-season test earlier this week, Bautista’s rich vein of form on the all-new Ducati Panigale V4 R continued today when he produced a sensational 1min30.327sec lap in the second 50-minute session at a jaw-dropping average speed of 177.156km/h.
Bautista even surprised himself with his pace at Phillip Island this week.
“I didn’t expect to be so strong here but I’ll take it,” said Bautista, who was fourth in the 2018 MotoGP race at Phillip Island. “We are really just starting to work on setup and to match the bike to my riding characteristics.
“It’s the first time I’ve really felt that me and the bike are working as one.”
Despite his promising form, Bautista dismisses suggestions that he’s the man to beat this weekend.
“I’m No. 19, and there’s one rider who everyone has to beat – and that’s the No. 1 of Jonathan Rea.”
Bautista, the 2006 125 GP world champion before going onto race successfully in the 250cc and MotoGP ranks, was one of 11 riders in the 19-rider field to better his time in the second session.
World champion Rea (Kawasaki) wasn’t one of those, but not from a lack of trying as he pushed his ZX-10RR to the limit in the final five minutes.
Rea, currently sitting on a record 11-race winning streak in the production series after a withering end to 2018, still finished day one second overall, ahead of teammate Leon Haslam, new BMW signing Tom Sykes, Alex Lowes (Yamaha), Leon Camier (Honda), Sandro Cortese (Yamaha) and Markus Reiterberger (BMW).
The top six all eclipsed the one-year-old WorldSBK race lap record held by Melandri – (1:30.848).
Michael van der Mark (Yamaha) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki) completed the top 10, while Marco Melandri (Yamaha) and world No. 2 Chaz Davies (Ducati) were 13th and 14th – but only one second behind Bautista, which bodes well for three cracking races over the weekend.
Australia’s Troy Herfoss (Honda) was 19th.
The WorldSBK riders will now rest up and prepare for a massive Saturday: final practice is at 10:00am, before Superpole qualifying at 12:15pm and then the opening 22-lap race at 3:00pm.
Then on Sunday it’s a new dawn for WorldSBK, as a sprint race is introduced into the program – a 10-lapper at midday – followed by the second 22-lapper at 3:00pm.
Swiss rider Randy Krummenacher (Yamaha) was today’s benchmark, no-one getting near his best lap of 1min32.777sec.
Thomas Gradinger was second, and then it was Federico Caricasulo, Jules Cluzel (all Yamaha), Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta) and 2018 Phillip Island winner Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki).
Aussie wildcard Tom Toparis (Yamaha) was 15th.
WorldSSP will continue the same practice and qualifying structure as WorldSBK on Saturday, followed by the 16-lap race on Sunday – which will include a compulsory pit stop for a rear tyre change.
Tickets and on-circuit camping available from Ticketek, or at the gate from 8am Saturday and Sunday. Campers can gain 24 hour access to the campground check-in via gate 2.
For more information www.worldsbk.com.au
TOP TEN - WorldSBK SESSIONS 1 & 2 FRIDAY COMBINED BEST
1. Alvaro Bautista (19) Ducati 1m30.327 s
2. Jonathan Rea (1) Kawasaki 1m30.341 s
3. Leon Haslam (91) Kawasaki 1m30.482 s
4. Tom Sykes (66) BMW 1m30.664 s
5. Alex Lowes (22) Yamaha 1m30.783s
6. Leon Camier (2) Honda 1m30.792s
7. Sandro Cortese (11) Yamaha 1m30.850s
8. Markus Reiterberger (28) BMW 1m30.862s
9. Michael van der Mark (60) Yamaha 1m31.049s
10. Toprak Razgatlioglu (54) Kawasaki 1m31.125s