There was double delight for Ducati at Phillip Island on Sunday afternoon as Alvaro Bautista scored a treble WorldSBK victory.
Aruba.it’s Michael Rinaldi completed the celebrations with his second runner-up finish of the day, albeit six seconds back from his commanding teammate, with Pata Yamaha Prometeon’s Andrea Locatelli rounding out the podium.
The final action of the Australian weekend saw double race winner Bautista take pole position ahead of 22 laps around the 4.4km layout. Blue skies and bright conditions bringing 38℃ track temperatures as Rinaldi and Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu joined the reigning champion on the front row. Local hero Remy Gardner began his third Superbike race on home soil facing a long lap penalty after collecting his GRT Yamaha teammate Dominique Aegerter through Miller corner during the morning’s sprint race.
The Ducatis maintained their advantage as the lights went out. Pata pairing Razgatlioglu and Locatelli swapping positions as the opening lap unfolded with Motocorsa’s Axel Bassani and Honda’s Iker Lecuona getting through on Jonathan Rea for fifth and sixth before Kawasaki teammate Alex Lowes joined the fight.
Bassani was up to fourth with Rea through to fifth as the second lap played out. Lowes nipping at the wheels of the 2021 champion while Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci and Philipp Oettl completed the top ten on their respective Barni and GoEleven Panigales.
Bautista held a half second lead as lap four fired up, Locatelli and Bassani the same again with Rea beginning to reel in the front runners. The six-time champion was up to fourth next time around with an unexpected move on the Italian through turn one. Razgatlioglu disappointing the number 47 further as he was quickly dispatched with Lowes the next to strike with 17 to go.
The top ten battle intensified with four abreast through Doohan corner, Oettl heading Petrucci, Michael van der Mark and Aegerter for ninth with Lecuona looking to better Bassani ahead.
A frustrating weekend came to an abrupt conclusion for Tom Sykes as the Puccetti rider bowed out early with a crash from the back of the field. Lowes enjoying a stronger performance on the factory Kawasaki as he claimed fifth from Razgatlioglu before capturing fourth from teammate Rea half a lap later. The Northern Irishman sliding back through the Southern Loop with positions swapped again as the lap concluded.
The mid pack battle found six riders split by half a second at half race distance. Razgatlioglu returning to fourth ahead of Rea and Lowes before the KRT pairing struck back. Bassani defending hard from Oettl and Lecuona with Petrucci and Aegerter quick to join the fight from the edge of the top ten.
Lowes led an eight-rider train in the growing battle for fourth with ten laps to go. The top three fully checked out with three seconds between each of the trio and firmly clear of the continuing squabbles behind.
A BMW battle fired up for the final point as Scott Redding defended from Bonovo’s Garrett Gerloff and Loris Baz. Bassani up to fourth as Lowes crashed out at Miller corner taking Razgatlioglu with him in the melee with six laps to go.
Oettl dispatched Rea for fifth as the race counted down. Lecuona hard on the wheels of the KRT before dispatching the number 65 down the Gardner Straight as the penultimate lap began. Aegerter following suit on the final lap to steal seventh in the closing stages.
Bautista secured a clean sweep for the opening round with a dominant six-second lead as the chequered flag dropped. Rinaldi completing a double Ducati one-two on Sunday with Locatelli rounding out the podium celebrations.
Bassani took best of the rest from a strongly recovering Oettl, while Lecuona and Aegerter maintained their advantage over Rea in the top eight. Petrucci completed his debut weekend with a ninth place finish over Honda’s Xavi Vierge with Gardner home ahead of the BMW quartet of van der Mark, Redding, Gerloff and Baz to collect the final points. The Australian promoted after the flag following a yellow flag infringement by the HRC man.