Alvaro Bautista has placed one hand firmly on the 2023 WorldSBK Championship title trophy after completing a hat-trick of wins in breathtaking circumstances by out-dragging Toprak Razgatlioglu to the line to sneak a vintage Race 2 victory at Portimao.
In a veritable classic of a showdown between WorldSBK's two leading protagonists racing at the top of their game, both Razgatlioglu and Bautista took their rivalry to a new level as they doggedly toughed it out over the entire 20 lap race, pulling off dozens of overtakes on one another in a tussle that went right down to the wire.
However, just as he did in the Superpole Race, Bautista would ultimately rely on his Ducati’s superior acceleration out of the long final right-hander to slip past his rival’s Yamaha on the dash to the line, the Aruba Racing rider taking the flag for his 24th win of the season.
Though not quite enough to confirm himself as WorldSBK Champion for a second successive year, Bautista nonetheless needs only two points from any one of the final three races to be held at the Jerez season finale to lift the crown on home soil.
For Razgatlioglu, however, missing out on victory in Race 2 will be an even harder pill to swallow than the Superpole Race after a spectacular performance that saw him repeatedly come back at Bautista each and every time he was overtaken down the home straight on most laps.
Indeed, it would prove to be a physically demanding 20-lap encounter for both riders from the off as they settled into 1-2 positions they'd trade frequently throughout. Indeed, not only would almost every lap feature an overtake between the pair, at times they’d be swapping over on multiple occasions.
The consequence of a fast, sweeping and undulating venue that plays to disparate strengths of the Ducati and Yamaha packages, while it was Bautista’s missile - particularly down the home straight - that had the evident edge in Race 1 and the Superpole Race, for Race 2 it was Razgatlioglu himself making up the extra tenths to take on his seemingly impenetrable rival.
However, in a season that has seen Razgatlioglu keep his title hopes alive on the back of just seven wins - some 17 fewer than Bautista - this testament to the Turk’s determined attitude was on full display in Race 2 as he mustered multiple tactics to throw at Bautista in an attempt to prevent him escaping away from his clutches.
Indeed, while there was no hope of defending against Bautista down the long home straight, Razgatlioglu expanded his overtaking repertoire beyond his favourite late braking re-pass into Turn 1 by launching several waves of attack through Turn 5, Turn 11 and Turn 13 too.
Even when Bautista was able to defend the lead he’d acquired on the run to Turn 1 late into the lap, Razgatlioglu was able to regroup and fight back with some flamboyant and unconventional - yet always clean - overtakes that kept catching the Spaniard by surprise.
Among the highlights were his slinky slip up the inside into Turn 5 on lap six, the ‘element of surprise’ shove past at Turn 13 on lap nine and the ‘stop, block and roll-off’ overtake, once again at Turn 13, with three laps remaining.
If it looked like Razgatlioglu was on the edge, it was actually Bautista that seemed to be feeling most under pressure on a Ducati appearing less poised than the Yamaha. However, it mattered little given his sheer advantage on the straight and narrow.
Indeed, it would come to his rescue entering the final lap when - after losing the lead with his first obvious mistake at Turn 5 moments earlier - Bautista breezed back through yet again from a long way back. Undeterred, Razgatlioglu would revive his famous ‘last of the late brakers’ tactic into Turn 1 to snatch the lead back.
From here, the Turk would throw all the shapes on the Yamaha R1 in an effort to keep Bautista at arm’s length as they completed the final revolution, but the Spaniard - no doubt with the outcome of the Superpole Race still fresh in his mind - simply kept his cool, latching onto the rear of the R1 through the final sector and, crucially, the final corner.
Pulling wide as the duo fanned out onto the home straight, Bautista’s superior acceleration would subsequently dish out some cruel punishment to a frustrated Razgatlioglu, who could do nothing but watch as the Ducati and his hard work got away from him to the tune of +0.126s.
A satisfying win for Bautista, despite the best efforts his ‘have-a-go-hero’ rival, it means the Spaniard stands on the cusp of sealing back-to-back titles on home soil at Jerez towards the end of October.
Watching the lead battle play out from a distance in third place was Michael Ruben Rinaldi, who ended his weekend on a high with a ninth podium of the year, while Garrett Gerloff produced another fine charge up the order on the Bonovo BMW, the in-form American notching up his fourth top five finish from the last three rounds in fourth.
On the podium in the Superpole Race, Andrea Locatelli was made to settle for fifth in Race 2, ahead of Danilo Petrucci, top Honda rider Iker Lecuona and Dominique Aegerter, the Swiss rider picking up the GYTR GRT baton from Remy Gardner after the Australian was forced to retire with technical issues having run as high as third.
Philipp Oettl concluded one of his strongest weekends of the season in ninth, ahead of Jonathan Rea, who fought back from an off at Turn 3 that also involved Scott Redding and Xavi Vierge, plus a long lap penalty handed down as punishment for causing the aforementioned incident, to take tenth at the flag.
Michael van der Mark, Axel Bassani, Lorenzo Baldassarri, plus the recovering Redding and Vierge, notched up the final points in 11th down to 15th respectively.
|2023 Portimao WorldSBK | Portimao | Race 2 Results | Round 11 of 12|
|1||Alvaro Bautista||🇪🇸||Aruba Ducati||Ducati Panigale V4 R||20 Laps|
|2||Toprak Razgatlioglu||🇹🇷||Pata Crescent Racing||Yamaha R1||+0.126|
|3||Michael Ruben Rinaldi||🇮🇹||Aruba Ducati||Ducati Panigale V4 R||+1.764|
|4||Garrett Gerloff||🇺🇲||Bonovo Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||+2.864|
|5||Andrea Locatelli||🇮🇹||Pata Crescent Racing||Yamaha R1||+6.373|
|6||Danilo Petrucci||🇮🇹||Barni Spark Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R||+9.305|
|7||Iker Lecuona||🇪🇸||Team HRC||Honda CBR1000RR-R||+10.154|
|8||Dominique Aegerter||🇨🇭||GYTR GRT||Yamaha R1||+10.262|
|9||Philipp Oettl||🇩🇪||Go Eleven||Ducati Panigale V4 R||+12.253|
|10||Jonathan Rea||🇬🇧||Kawasaki Racing Team||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||+19.155|
|11||Michael van der Mark||🇳🇱||BMW Motorrad WorldSBK||BMW M 1000 RR||+20.468|
|12||Axel Bassani||🇮🇹||Motocorsa Racing||Ducati Panigale V4 R||+20.970|
|13||Lorenzo Baldassarri||🇮🇹||GMT 94||Yamaha R1||+23.800|
|14||Scott Redding||🇬🇧||BMW Motorrad WorldSBK||BMW M 1000 RR||+29.871|
|15||Xavi Vierge||🇪🇸||Team HRC||Honda CBR1000RR-R||+41.408|
|16||Tito Rabat||🇪🇸||Puccetti Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||+42.685|
|17||Isaac Vinales||🇪🇸||TPR by Vinales Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||+42.967|
|18||Bradley Ray||🇬🇧||Motoxracing||Yamaha R1||+51.507|
|19||Gabriele Ruiu||🇮🇹||B-Max Racing||BMW M 1000 RR||+51.529|
|DNF||Remy Gardner||🇦🇺||GYTR GRT||Yamaha R1|
|DNF||Loris Baz||🇫🇷||Bonovo Racing||BMW M 1000 RR|
|DNF||Hafizh Syahrin||🇲🇾||MIE Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R|
|DNS||Alex Lowes||🇬🇧||Kawasaki Racing Team||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|
|DNS||Eric Granado||🇧🇷||MIE Racing||Honda CBR1000RR-R|
|DNS||Oliver Konig||🇨🇿||Orelac Racing||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|