Aruba.it Ducati made it two from two on Saturday as Alvaro Bautista claimed victory in WorldSBK race one at Phillip Island.
Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea and Pata Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu completed the podium as last season’s big three continued to dominate in 2023’s season opener in Australia.
A sodden Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit greeted the delayed opening race action of the Superbike class on Saturday afternoon as the rain continued to fall while the grid lined up. Razgatlioglu claiming pole position from reigning champion Bautista with Dominique Aegerter alongside on his SBK debut with GRT Yamaha.
Bautista took the holeshot as the lights went out, KRT’s Rea through to second from Razgatlioglu and Kawasaki teammate Alex Lowes with Aegerter defending hard from Pata Yamaha’s Andrea Locatelli and home talent Remy Gardner on the GRT.
Rea slid through to the lead as lap two bedded in, Lowes making his own moves on the leading Yamaha for third as Locatelli joined his teammate in fourth and fifth. The spray thick as Michael van der Mark crashed out of ninth with a highside through the Hayshed.
The Northern Irishman held an eight-tenth lead as lap three unfolded. Lowes a similar distance behind the Ducati in second as further back Motocorsa’s Axel Bassani bettered Aegerter for sixth. Razgatlioglu poweried down the Gardner straight one lap later to secure third from the Kawasaki as Puccetti’s Tom Sykes’ return to the world stage concluded early with a retirement into the pits.
Iker Lecuona was running seventh by lap five as Aegerter and Barni Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci trailed the Honda. Scott Redding rounding out the top ten on the remaining Rokit BMW after a move on Gardner’s GRT before capturing the double WorldSSP Champion two laps later.
Honda’s Xavi Vierge was the next to dispatch Gardner and Aegerter for tenth. Michael Rinaldi circulating 14th as he struggled with conditions on the Aruba Panigale, Bautista finding no such difficulties as he took charge overall with a confident turn three move on Rea for the lead.
Redding’s progress continued with 12 laps to go as the Brit climbed to seventh, three seconds the gap to bridge to Bassani ahead while Bautista salvaged a major moment at the Hayshed leaving Rea hot on his wheels in the second half.
The Ducati man pulled the pin with nine to go, clawing back over a second’s breathing space from his nearest rival with a pair of Pata Yamaha’s four seconds apiece behind after Lowes crashed out at Southern Loop with a heavy highside.
Five to go and Bautista held a two-second lead after Rea salvaged a moment at the base of MG. The battle for sixth intensifying as first Lecuona bettered Redding with Petrucci and Vierge just two tenths behind before the pair both advanced next time around.
The closing laps saw the action settle allowing the Spaniard to command proceedings by three and a half seconds over the line from Rea, Razgatlioglu and a distant Locatelli. Bassani and Lecuona completed the top six with Vierge pressuring Petrucci for seventh in the final stages before being initially denied at the flag - the Spaniard later awarded the position following a stewards decision. Redding and Bonovo BMW’s Garrett Gerloff took ninth and tenth with Go Eleven’s Philipp Oettl holding off Gardner, Aegerter, Rinaldi and Petronas MIE Honda’s Hafizh Syahrin for the final points positions.