Bautista takes first win of 2023 with wet-weather masterclass in #AUSWorldSBK Race 1
A delayed start to Race 1 in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship provided plenty of drama as rain came down before the start of the race at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. Reigning Champion Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) claimed a stunning victory in difficult conditions after an incredible overtake on rival Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) as the #1 started the season on top in Australia.
Bautista started from second place but got the holeshot at the start of the race before being passed by Rea, who took his 378th WorldSBK start in Race 1 and moved ahead of Troy Corser at Turn 10 on the opening lap of the race. From there, Rea and Bautista pulled away from the chasing pack as they battled it out for the win. Rea had been able to pull out a gap of just over a second at points during the first half of the race but Bautista never lost touch and slowly started reeling the six-time Champion in.
On Lap 10, Bautista made his move at Stoner Corner, the high-speed left-hand corner to take the lead of the race and he remained there for the final 12 laps of the race. Bautista had a huge slide through Turn 8 a couple of laps after passing Rea but, although the Ulsterman closed in, Bautista once again pulled away to take victory by more than three seconds at the end of the race.
Behind the leading duo, it was a bit of a lonely race for polesitter Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) as he finished in third place but six seconds down on Bautista and 10 seconds ahead of teammate Andrea Locatelli as the factory Yamaha duo finished in third and fourth respectively. Bautista’s victory claimed Spain’s 70th WorldSBK victory while it was his 59th WorldSBK podium finish. Second was Rea’s 246th podium while Razgatlioglu claimed his 83rd podium in WorldSBK.
Italian rider Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) battled his way up from 14th to fifth at the end of the 22-lap race which included two stunning opening laps to put himself into the top ten. He slowly picked off his rivals before dropping back from Locatelli and settling for fifth place. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) was the lead Honda rider in sixth as he gained positions from 11th on the grid on his first WorldSBK race at Phillip Island. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) was another who gained places throughout the race as he took seventh place. The pair had battled throughout the final lap with an incident investigated by the FIM WorldSBK Stewards after the pair made contact. Petrucci had crossed the line ahead of Vierge but was demoted one position for irresponsible riding, meaning Vierge was seventh and Petrucci eighth.
In what was a bit of a theme for riders who finished in the top ten, Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) took eighth spot after fighting from 17th on the grid, finishing ahead of BMW duo Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) with American star taking a top-ten finished on his first BMW race start after starting towards the back of the grid. Gerloff was around five seconds down on Redding at the end of the race as they finished as the highest-placed BMW riders.
Phillip Oettl (Team GoEleven) had shown strong pace throughout both the Australian Round and the Official Test in the week proceeding the event, and the German rider took 11th spot in the wet conditions. He was ahead of Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) who took 12th on his WorldSBK debut on home soil, finishing ahead of teammate Dominique Aegerter in 13th. Aegerter had started on the front row but dropped back during his first WorldSBK race and his first in wet conditions to take points on his debut. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was 14th at the end of the 22-lap race while Hafizh Syahrin (PETRONAS MIE Racing HONDA Team) claimed the final points position in Race 1 with 15th place.
Eric Granado (PETRONAS MIE Racing HONDA Team) was 16th on his return to the Championship, finishing two seconds down on his teammate, while rookie Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) was 17th and almost three seconds down on Granado. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) was 18th after he brought his M 1000 RR into the pits during the race and returning to the track a lap down.
Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was the first retirement of the race when he crashed at Turn 8 on Lap 2 after he had a highside, which ended his first race of 2023 prematurely. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) crashed out of the race on Lap 15 at Turn 2, with Lowes going to the medical centre for a check-up following the crash. Lowes was subsequently declared fit. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) had a technical issue during the race and lost two laps in the early stages after bringing his bike into the pits on Lap 5. He did briefly re-join the race but retired from the race. Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO) also retired from the race after he ran wide at Turn 4 and then bringing his bike into the pits.