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WORLD SUPERBIKES

Bautista unstoppable at season opener down under

Race One

The season-opening race of the 2019 World Superbike season at Phillip Island was a historic one for Alvaro Bautista and the Ducati Panigale V4 R. Both the Spaniard and the Ducati V4 R claimed wins in their first-ever WorldSBK race Saturday in Australia. Bautista, who spent nine years competing in the premier MotoGP class before joining World Superbike, became the first rookie to win a WorldSBK race since Max Biaggi back in 2007.

And the 34-year old did it with complete dominance. Starting from third on the grid behind Kawasaki Racing Team’s Leon Haslam and Jonathan Rea – the pole sitter – Bautista took over the lead at turn 3. From there he was untouchable. When the 22-lap race was complete, Bautista claimed the win by 14.983 seconds ahead of the four-time reigning World Superbike Champion Rea. Claiming the final podium was GRT Yamaha WorldSBK’s Marco Melandri, who finished 16.934 seconds behind Bautista.

“This victory has given me such incredible satisfaction and I’m really happy to have won my first World Superbike race,” Alvaro Bautista says. “For sure we worked well throughout the winter months and this allowed us to prepare a competitive bike for the first round. “Today I wasn’t able to set the pole because I still have to understand how the qualifying tires work, as they are completely new for me. “In the race however I was really confident because I knew I had an excellent pace, and my strategy was to take the lead as soon as possible and then keep a consistent pace.

“I could see that the gap was increasing lap after lap, even though I was trying to manage thetiree wear, especially towards the end of the race. I’m really happy and I’d like to thank Ducati, Aruba and the guys in my team, now we’ll see if we can keep this up.”

Claiming fourth – just 0.05 of a second behind Melandri – was Pata Yamaha WorldSBK’s Alex Lowes. The other factory Yamaha rider Michael van der Mark claimed fifth ahead of Turkish Puccettti Racing Kawasaki’s Toprak Razgatlioglu and BMW Motorrad WorldSBK’s Tom Sykes. Rounding out the top 10 were GRT Yamaha’s Sandro Cortese, Barni Racing Team Ducati’s Michael Rinaldi and Bautista’s teamamte Chaz Davies.

Race Two

Alvaro Bautista took complete control in the final World Superbike race at Phillip Island to secure a historic hat-trick of wins on his debut. On Saturday the Aruba.it Racing Ducati rider became the sixth rider in history to win on his World Superbike debut, and first since Max Biaggi in 2007, before following that feat with a perfect Sunday double. In the first-ever sprint race Bautista held off Jonathan Rea’s charge to take victory and in the full length race two Bautista took advantage of his superior pace and tyre conservation to ease to a hat-trick of World Superbike wins.

Bautista blasted clear from pole position and built his lead up to over 18 seconds – bigger than his winning margin from Saturday’s race – before easing off over the closing stages. The Spanish rider also becomes the second rider to take a clean sweep of wins on his World Superbike debut round after John Kocinski achieved the feat at Misano in 1996. Behind the Bautista domination, Rea saw off Kawasaki team-mate Leon Haslam to lockout a hat-trick of second places at Phillip Island with the pair contesting a fierce but fair race-long battle.

Michael van der Mark won the Yamaha battle with a last-lap pass on GRT Yamaha’s Marco Melandri with the Italian rider slipping to sixth place behind Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes who profited from his rival’s tyre life drop. Chaz Davies produced a recovery ride having started a lowly 16th to reach seventh place by the chequered flag for the factory Ducati team, albeit almost 27 seconds off team-mate Bautista, but ahead of GRT Yamaha’s Sandro Cortese in eighth place.

Eugene Laverty recovered from his own mid-race drop to take ninth place for Go Eleven Ducati with Moriwaki Althea Honda’s Leon Camier rounding out the top 10.

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