Alvaro Bautista out-lasted a determined Toprak Razgatlioglu to claim an important 22nd victory of the season in the first race of the penultimate WorldSBK round of season at Portimao.
The Spaniard held his form during a wild initial exchange with Razgatlioglu and both factory Kawasakis to make the break from the pack before mid-way stage before accelerating home to a comfortable win.
Razgatlioglu put up a good fight despite the limitations of his Yamaha machinery versus the Ducati before launching a spirited fightback in the closing stages, but would ultimately be forced to settle for second. It means he cedes another five points to Bautista, the pair split by 52 points with five races to go.
While it was a familiar figure atop the podium at the flag, Bautista was certainly made to work hard for his win around a Portimao layout that favours different bikes at different points on the circuit.
It goes a long way to explain a heart-stopping first few laps stimulated by the concertina effect of having a Yamaha that was superior on the brakes, two Kawasakis that were more stable through the fast corners and then the Ducati able to use its sheer strength in acceleration to be menace down the home straight.
At the lights, Razgatlioglu got the better of fellow front row starters Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes on the run down to Turn 1, the Turk tipping in ahead of the latter ZX-10RR rider.
With Lowes between himself and Bautista, Razgatlioglu attempted to make the most of his opportunity in front but a scruffy first lap was punished when Lowes achieved what few often can by slipstreaming and out-braking the Yamaha rider into Turn 1 at the start of lap two.
The first time this season Lowes has led a lap in WorldSBK, the Englishman defended doggedly initially with some aggressive chops across Razgatlioglu’s nose, but while it kept him in front, it also backed up the lead group of five right on his tail.
It meant he was an easy target on the run to Turn 1 at the start of lap four, Lowes swamped by all four riders to find himself in fifth by turn two.
Razgatlioglu emerged from the kerfuffle with the lead on the exit of Turn 1 and though Bautista’s superior speed through Turn 2 nosed him ahead briefly, the Yamaha rider quickly shuffled back up the inside of the Ducati man at Turn 3.
It was a pendulum of momentum that would serve to define the following laps, Bautista’s superiority pulling through the gears on the home straight or up Portimao’s steeper inclines being matched by Razgatloglu’s greater confidence with a squirming bike on the anchors and the R1’s more nimble handling.
However, after a couple of laps during which Bautista breezed past, only to be pegged back by some gritty lunges by Razgatlioglu, the Spaniard’s overtake on the run to Turn 1 at the start of lap eight would prove decisive. Going on to defend his position into the Turn 5 hairpin where his rival had been stronger, by the time the leaders returned to Turn 1 on lap nine, the gap between Bautista and Razgatlioglu was already +0.7s.
With room to ride his lines without fear of attack from directly behind, Bautista could finally begin pumping in some quick lap times, allowing him to pull clear of the Turk.
Though Razgatlioglu mounted a fight-back in the closing stages as Bautista eased the tempo in an effort to simply reach the end, he’d relent over the final couple of laps to trail home by just over two seconds.
A crucial 22nd win for Bautista, it means he remains on course for the riders’ title, even if it’s less guaranteed he will be celebrating it in Portugal this weekend.
Nevertheless, there were still celebrations to be enjoyed in the Ducati paddock as the Italian firm was confirmed Manufacturers’ World Champions once more with an event to spare. Moreover, with Nicolo Bulega on the verge of the 2023 WorldSSP Championship title, there could be yet more to toast before the weekend is out.
Behind Razgatlioglu, Rea trailed in third, the Ulsterman showing frisky form early on as he tussled it out with the lead two before fading in the second-half of the race.
Behind him, Garrett Gerloff produced a fine performance to equal his and BMW’s best finish of the season in fourth. The American maintained excellent forward momentum from a starting position of just 11th to pick his way through, even swapping some paint with stablemate Michael van der Mark on the way.
The Dutchman had made the most of a second row starting position to escape away with the lead group initially to run fourth, only to be reeled in again, first by Gerloff and then by Alex Lowes and Remy Gardner, the latter sneaking through on the final lap to finish sixth.
Iker Lecuona flew the flag for Honda in eighth, ahead of Andrea Locatelli, who fought from the back of the grid - the result of a penalty for not heeding black/orange flags in Aragon - to cross the line ninth. With the penalty stipulated for only Race 1, it means Locatelli will start third in Sunday morning’s Superpole Race.
Xavi Vierge completed the top ten with Ducati trio Philipp Oettl, Danilo Petrucci and Axel Bassani in 11th, 12th and 13th. Despite the low score, the latter’s hopes of securing fifth in the overall standings was boosted by Michael Ruben Rinaldi retiring with a technical issue.
Dominique Aegerter and Scott Redding picked up the final points’ paying positions in 14th and 15th
|2023 Portimao WorldSBK | Portimao | Race 1 Results | Round 11 of 12|
|1||Alvaro Bautista||🇪🇸||Aruba Ducati||Ducati Panigale V4 R||20 Laps|
|2||Toprak Razgatlioglu||🇹🇷||Pata Crescent Racing||Yamaha R1||+2.098|
|3||Jonathan Rea||🇬🇧||Kawasaki Racing Team||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||+6.790|
|4||Garrett Gerloff||🇺🇲||Bonovo Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||+12.093|
|5||Alex Lowes||🇬🇧||Kawasaki Racing Team||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||+13.148|
|6||Remy Gardner||🇦🇺||GYTR GRT||Yamaha R1||+13.714|
|7||Michael van der Mark||🇳🇱||BMW Motorrad WorldSBK||BMW M 1000 RR||+14.171|
|8||Iker Lecuona||🇪🇸||Team HRC||Honda CBR1000RR-R||+15.442|
|9||Andrea Locatelli||🇮🇹||Pata Crescent Racing||Yamaha R1||+17.792|
|10||Xavi Vierge||🇪🇸||Team HRC||Honda CBR1000RR-R||+21.198|
|11||Philipp Oettl||🇩🇪||Go Eleven||Ducati Panigale V4 R||+21.723|
|12||Danilo Petrucci||🇮🇹||Barni Spark Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R||+21.910|
|13||Axel Bassani||🇮🇹||Motocorsa Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R||+23.381|
|14||Dominique Aegerter||🇨🇭||GYTR GRT||Yamaha R1||+23.457|
|15||Scott Redding||🇬🇧||BMW Motorrad WorldSBK||BMW M 1000 RR||+29.872|
|16||Lorenzo Baldassarri||🇮🇹||GMT 94||Yamaha R1||+34.162|
|17||Bradley Ray||🇬🇧||Motoxracing||Yamaha R1||+36.702|
|18||Loris Baz||🇫🇷||Bonovo Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||+40.829|
|19||Tito Rabat||🇪🇸||Puccetti Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||+46.446|
|20||Hafizh Syahrin||🇲🇾||MIE Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R||+52.185|
|21||Eric Granado||🇧🇷||MIE Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R||+53.598|
|22||Gabriele Ruiu||🇮🇹||B-Max Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||+53.916|
|23||Oliver Konig||🇨🇿||Orelac Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||+1m >|
|DNF||Michael Ruben Rinaldi||🇮🇹||Aruba Ducati||Ducati Panigale V4 R|
|DNF||Isaac Vinales||🇪🇸||TPR by Vinales Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|