A perfect Sunday double to cap off a perfect WorldSBK season for Bautista
An emotional end to what has been a triumphant year for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, ending with a season finale spectacular at none other than the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. While the WorldSBK paddock came into this round with a World Champion already crowned, this didn’t stop a fierce battle coming our way with hopes to claim the final race win of the monumental 2022 World Superbike Championship.
In what was named one of Jonathan Rea’s (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) largest drought of wins, Rea managed to turn his misfortune around in Race 1 on Saturday for the flag-to-flag race, leaving the question be asked if the six-time World Champion could back this up with a Race 2 win, in what was set to be the first full dry race of the weekend.
It was Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) who made his way into Doohan Corner first to claim the final holeshot of the season, and it was Scott Redding who shocked many to make his way into second on the opening lap.
Garrett Gerloff’s (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) hopes of leading the way as Independent rider came to a halt in the opening few laps in the middle of Southern Loop, with the marginal error, unfortunately, seeing Team HRC Rookie Xavi Vierge’s season come to a premature end also with the pair coming together.
Miller corner set the scene for what would be one of the biggest rider tussles so far this weekend, with Lap 5 seeing a desperate dive by Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) to come from 5th to 3rd.
Bautista may have closed the book on the 2022 World Championship in Mandalika last weekend, but this didn’t mean Bautista was finished winning. It was clear Bautista wanted to close the book on the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship as the final race winner for the season.
The move by Toprak on Redding saw the BMW rider lose his rhythm, further getting passed by the 2020 World Supersport Champion Andrea Locatelli on Lap 7, with Redding losing the front group by over 2 seconds to find himself placed in 6th.
Bautista took the lead of the race in the second sector of Lap 7, but Rea managed to hold onto the World Champion, giving it all he could to not lose the tow from the Ducati Panigale V4R. Rea was doing everything in his power to not lose sight of Bautista, while also knowing he had Razgatlioglu hot on his tail.
By Lap 9, Alex Lowes was still managing to hang onto the Titanic Trio up the front, but just couldn’t quite stick there in the early laps to make any moves to secure his second podium of the weekend.
A slight mistake for Bautista around MG on lap 10 of 22 saw the leading four close up once again, with a marginal 4-tenths separating the top 3. While Lowes was still not able to find those extra tenths to close on what was a consistent 1-second gap.
Reaching the halfway point, it was still Bautista leading the way from Rea and Razgatlioglu, with the Kawasaki rider doing all he could to make a move on Bautista for the lead. It was a World Champion showdown, with the front three riders sharing eight World Championships between them, this was a pure masterclass race to see out the final round of the 2022 Championship.
As we reached the halfway point, Alex Lowes came into play, with the Race 1 podium finisher all over the back wheel of Razgatlioglu’s Yamaha. Lowes managed to close the gap to leader Bautista to a marginal 0.2 of a second, as the front four embarked down the main straight to start lap 14.
Rea and Bautista broke away at the front to put in a hard charge for first and second, and out of nowhere the duo pulled a massive 1.8-second gap to the battle for 3rd between Razgatlioglu and Lowes
With just 8 laps to go, Rea had to make his first move on Bautista but despite multiple efforts, the speed of the Ducati meant Rea could not get close enough.
Testuta Nagashima also impressed in his first full dry race in WorldSBK with Team HRC this weekend, doing an impressive job holding his own in 9th place, with a 2-second gap to Loris Baz in 10th.
Meanwhile, further back in the field, this was an emotional race for Eugene Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW) and his crew, closing the book on his final race in his illustrious career. It was a strong battle between Laverty, Xavi Fores (Barni Spark Racing Team), and Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), with just 1 tenth covering the three as they battled for 13th.
Unfortunately on just the next lap, an incident between Laverty and Fores into Turn 1 ultimately brought out the red flag with 5 laps remaining.
The battle continued up the front, but now it was Lowes leading the charge from Razgatlioglu for third, but due to the incident between Laverty and Fores the red flag came out. With the race reaching two-thirds of the race distance, this did mean that the final race of the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship would be cut 5 laps short.
With the unfortunate red flag, Alvaro Bautista became the final race winner of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, with Jonathan Rea in second and Alex Lowes closing out the podium for third.
With just a short 15 weeks to prepare, the riders will now head back to Phillip Island Circuit to start the season once again, for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian opening round, 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship on the 24th to 26th February, 2023!