Ducati’s new factory rider Alvaro Bautista has signalled his intentions for this weekend’s (Feb 22-24) round one of the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Superbike Championship after coming up trumps in a two-day test session at Phillip Island.
With the WorldSBK field due back at the grand prix circuit on Friday as the 32nd edition of the production series officially gets underway with the Yamaha Finance round, the 34-year-old Spaniard Bautista will be full of confidence after showing his contemporaries a clean air of heels in final testing on his all-new Panigale V4 R.
As well as being the quickest machine down the main chute, Bautista was able to get the best out of the V4 R on the fast and flowing Phillip Island curves as he stopped the clock with a best lap of 1min.30.303secs.
Bautista was one of six riders to eclipse the existing lap record (1:30.848), with Tom Sykes (BMW, 1:30.539), Leon Haslam (Kawasaki, 1:30.668), world champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki, 1:30.722), Marco Melandri (Yamaha, 1:30.760) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki, 1:20.840) also joining him. That’s four of the five WorldSBK manufacturers at the pointy end of the field.
The final World shakedown gave an indication of just how the dynamics of the series have already changed since 2018, with Bautista new to the scene from MotoGP, Haslam returning for the first time since 2015, Razgatlioglu continuing to improve at a dramatic rate, and new models from Ducati and BMW already making their presence felt.
Add in an enlarged WorldSBK program in 2019 – a sprint race will now be held on Sunday between the traditional longer races – and the scene is set for one of the best Phillip Island rounds in recent memory as defending champion Rea faces new and improved threats from all angles.
Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark completed the test seventh on the timesheets, ahead of German rookie Sandro Cortese – a Moto3 winner at Phillip Island in 2012 – Alex Lowes (Yamaha) and Jordi Torres (Kawasaki).
British guns Leon Camier (Honda) and Chaz Davies (Ducati) were 13th and 14th, while Australia’s Troy Herfoss (Honda) has been trying to resolve a number of setup gremlins with the ECU and suspension. He was 19th fastest.
World supersport has also been on track today, with Yamaha riders Randy Krummenacher and Federico Caricasulo continuing to dominate, while Aussie teenager Tom Toparis had a big off at the high-speed turn seven this morning – leaving him with a very second-hand Yamaha and a few friction burns.
WorldSBK Phillip Island Pre-Season Test – Monday & Tuesday Combined Times
1. Alvaro Bautista: Ducati (Spain) – 1m30.303
2. Tom Sykes: BMW (GBR) – 1m30.539
3. Leon Haslam: Kawasaki (GBR) – 1m30.668
4. Jonathan Rea: Kawasaki (GBR) – 1m30.722
5. Marco Melandri: Yamaha (ITA) – 1m30.760
6. Toprak Razgatlioglu: Kawasaki (Turkey) – 1m30.840
7. Michael Van der Mark: Yamaha (NETH) – 1m30.911
8. Sandro Cortese: Yamaha (Germany) – 1m31.077
9. Alex Lowes: Yamaha (GBR) – 1m31.168
10. Jordi Torres: Kawasaki (Spain) – 1m31.224
Australian Wildcard: 19. Troy Herfoss: Honda (Australia) – 1m33.130
See you Trackside at the Island for a Triple-Treat
A three-day General Admission is $120* secured in advance, or $230* when you add camping to your purchase.
If you feel like splashing out, step up to a Bar SBK ticket at $265* (with camping $375*) and enjoy undercover facilities at Doohan Corner, Siberia and Lukey Heights.
World superbikes is FREE** for kids 15 and under, and so is your bike.
As an extra bonus at WorldSBK, all three-day ticket holders are gifted FREE paddock access.
For more information go to www.worldsbk.com.au or call the toll free WorldSBK Hotline 1300 728 007
*All ticket prices quoted purchased in advance and subject to Ticketek service and handling fees.
**Children 15 and under are free and must be accompanied by a paying adult.