Ducati domination in Australia – Bautista takes the hat-trick at Phillip Island
The grid was set from Superpole and it was nothing but sunshine and blue skies reigning down on the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, setting the scene for what was going to be a glorious final race for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. A glorious race it was, with Alvaro Bautista [Aruba.it Racing – Ducati] making it a hat-trick in Australia.
With a different grid line-up which was set from the Tissot Superpole Race earlier today, it was once again Alvaro Bautista [Aruba.it Racing – Ducati] who rolled up into Pole Position, next to Michael Ruben Rinaldi [Aruba.it Racing – Ducati] and Toprak Razgatlioglu [Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK].
It was Bautista, starting from Pole, who got off to a flying start, getting the holeshot and leading the way to the 22-lap Race. Despite starting in fourth position, Alex Lowes [Kawasaki Racing Team] made it a difficult start for himself off the line, dropping down five positions to place himself in ninth on the opening lap.
As they made their way into Lap 2, it was a Ducati 1-2 at the front with Bautista leading the way and Michael Ruben Rinaldi following close behind. Third position and the silent assassin of the weekend was Andrea Locatelli [Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK], leading the way for Yamaha in impressive fashion with only one second covering the Top 3.
Independent rider Axel Bassani [Motocorsa Racing] got off to a great start, finding himself slotted into fourth position, once again showing that once the temperature rises, so do the Ducati’s performance.
Slotted behind Bassani was a storm of green with Jonathan Rea [Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK] who fought from seventh on the grid, with Alex Lowes [Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK] in hot pursuit behind. This quickly formed into a six-way fight for fourth, with riders Toprak Razgatlioglu, Iker Lecuona [Team HRC], and Philipp Oettl [Team GoEleven] joining the fight. Heading into Lap 4, it was a close battle which saw only 2.9 seconds covering the top 8 riders.
Unfortunately, bad luck continued for Australian Remy Gardner [GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team]. Gardner not only found himself starting from well back on the grid in Race 2, but was also handed a long lap penalty after being deemed responsible for his collision with teammate Dominique Aegerter in the Tissot Superpole Race. After Gardner’s long lap penalty, he found himself down in 14th position as he entered Lap 8.
Further down the order, there was a battle forming between Dominique Aegerter and Danilo Petrucci, not wasting any time to find themselves higher in the order. While Bautista, Rinaldi and Locatelli were comfortably in the front, it was all cameras on the fight for fourth. With passes happening everywhere you looked, the six rider battle quickly transformed into an eight rider battle, joined by Danilo Petrucci and Dominique Aegerte. Only 1.5 seconds covered fourth to 11th place on Lap 13. With a handful of different manufacturers, they were all easily matching one another with nearly identical lap times, and nothing separating them.
As the race hit two-thirds, it was the Kawasaki riders of Lowes and Rea and Independent Ducati rider Axel Bassani who finally managed to make a break from the pack, finding some breathing room behind Toprak Razgatlioglu who found his way back in 7th place.
The lap board counted down with just five laps remaining, and as the pack of eight riders came into Turn 4, the race got turned upside down as drama struck with Lowes out braking himself and running straight into the path of Razgatlioglu. The pair came tumbling down, ending both of their top 5 hopes in Race 2.
With Rea and Bassani in front of the incident, unharmed and unknowing what carnage was happening behind them, the collision gave them some breathing room from Oettl and Lecuona. Aegerter found himself off the back of this pack, dragging one-second behind.
Despite a strong mid-race pace, Jonathan Rea had nothing in the tank in the last 3 laps. Flying the flag for Kawasaki, Rea was first overtaken by Philipp Oettl, and then by Iker Lecuona and Dominique Aegerter on the following lap. Relegating the six-time World Champion back to eighth as they crossed the chequered flag.
Despite the quiet, less eventful battle for the top three, this doesn’t take away from the incredible race of Alvaro Bautista, who took three wins from three starts and proving why he has the #1 plate on his Ducati Panigale V4 R. Second place and 6 seconds behind the winner was Michael Ruben Rinaldi to make it an Aruba.it Racing – Ducati 1-2. And, our silent assassin making the race his own, third place went to Andrea Locatelli.
With everything not entirely going to plan for Gardner’s home race and maiden WorldSBK race, the Australian showed his fighting nature and continued to push right to the chequered flag – securing 11th place in Race 2, scoring some valuable points towards his 2023 WorldSBK Championship campaign.
Alvaro Bautista: “I felt good on each race but they were three very different race but I felt good on each one and was competitive in each one so yeah I am really happy. I like the fast corners, I was fast during the winter test so I don’t think that I am only fast at this track. I made a good step forward also because I know the bike much better, the tyres with the bike and referencing, the new bike gave me a bit more of a drive out of the corners so it was just a combination of everything and was a good step forward for everything.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi: “In the first race, I never start this strong so it’s okay. But, we need to improve in different conditions because the Championship is not always sunny. So, I need to improve there and understand what is important. I pushed a lot at the beginning [Race 2], to stick with Alvaro, I tried to not use too much of the tyre. I saw that I was making a good gap to the riders behind so I thought if I can keep this for the last laps, it’s enough to make second.”
Andrea Locatelli: “We know that here was a bit difficult, but I am really happy about our weekend. In the end, we made no mistakes during the race. I was a little bit slower in the superpole race, and we started from P9, so it was not easy and the Superpole race was difficult. In the end, we closed on P5 in the Superpole race. In the end, I wanted to leave Phillip Island with a podium, and we got this. I am really happy and really proud of my job and the job of the team because we worked really well. We need to continue to work and try to be closer, but we know that on this track it was always going to be difficult, but we always try. We have a good package, and we try to believe in this and get the maximum we can.”