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Bautista continues fine run of form by winning opener in Thailand

Race One

Twenty laps in tropical heat, World Superbike was contested by nineteen riders. Qualifying was dominated by Alvaro Bautista with reigning world champion Jonathan Rea a consistent second place. Jonathan Rea led in the charge to the first turn, but Alvaro Bautista took the lead into turn one, only for Rea to lead out of the exit. Leon Haslam held third place until Alex Lowes took it from him at turn four, with Tom Sykes and Michael van der Mark pushing Haslam further back to sixth place. On the second lap, Bautista closed up to Rea at the end of the long kinked straight, bit Rea held Bautista off on the brakes. Jonathan Rea and Alvaro Bautista both broke the lap record on lap two. Lap three, Bautista and Rea charged towards turn three side by side, and Bautista lunged for the apes a little hot, leaving a gap for Rea to take the lead back, mid corner. Bautista, on the outside, cut in to the corner exit only to find a green bike in the way, slightly ahead of him. Bautista's Ducati bounced off Rea's Kawasaki and he had to settle his bike to avoid crashing. Alex Lowes in third place saw the gap and took second place from him.

At the end of the lap, Bautista took second place from Lowes, holding the advantage but sitting a second behind the leader Rea. Lap four, Rea set the lap record and held off the fast Ducati on the straights for several laps. As Rea held his gap from Bautista, but the leading two were visibly quicker than everyone else on the track, with the fight for third place, headed by Alex Lowes and his Yamaha teammate Michael van der Mark, over two seconds back. As Bautista reeled Rea in on the fast bits, he finally caught up to him and on lap nine, they were both over four seconds clear of everything happening behind them.
With Bautista finally getting his hooks into Rea, he was able to pass him at turn two, the kink in the bent straight that leads to turn three. Rea couldn't pass him back into turn three and Bautista held the advantage and broke the lap record in the process. While Jonathan Rea was able to keep Alvaro Bautista honest for a couple more laps, on lap eleven, the Spanish rookie broke for from his clutches and, with a few wobbles and slides, set about ticking the laps off. Rea closed up a few times, pushing Bautista to make a couple of tiny mistakes, but five laps from the end, maintained an unbeatable pace. Jonathan Rea was half a second quicker than the four riders fighting for third eight seconds back, Alex Lowes still leading Michael van der Mark, Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam, but Alvaro Bautista was a full second quicker than Lowes et al.

The race then took the predictable turn of Bautista and Rea charging away at the front, a handful of seconds apart, leaving everyone else to sort out the rest of the places. Alex Lowes, having seen "plus zero for seventeen laps" on his pitboard, maintained his concentration to take third place behind Bautista and Rea, but it was Alvaro Bautista who once again won the race. Eugene Laverty crashed out on lap three, Ryuichi Kiyonari retured on lap eight and Chaz Davies crashed a lap later, but Davies was able to remount his bike and finish with a solitary point for fifteenth place. With the new Superpole race on Sunday now counting for the record books, Alvaro Bautista has won four races from four starts and leads the championship by 18 points, with Jonathan Rea second and Alex Lowes a further twenty three points behind him. Michael van der Mark, Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam round out the top six with second-best rookie Sandro Cortese in seventh place.

Race Two

Man of the moment Alvaro Bautista extended his lead in the World Superbike Championship with a dominant victory in race one at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand on Saturday. Reigning champion Jonathan Rea sealed second place on his Kawasaki behind the Spaniard, who powered to his fourth win in a row on the Ducati by 8.2 seconds. Rea and Bautista disputed the lead in the early stages and there was drama on lap three, when the Ducati rider took the lead at Turn 3 only for Rea to cut back underneath him as the pair collided. Bautista somehow managed to remain upright and showed his disapproval as he shook his head following the contact. In the searing heat, he fought his way back after losing ground and with 12 laps to go, Bautista overtook Rea at Turn 3 and made it stick. From there he began to pull clear with Rea unable to respond on his Kawasaki. Former MotoGP rider Bautista has now set a new record as the only rookie ever to win their first four races following another impressive display on the Panigale V4 R.

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