After spectators were still trying to regain their composure after a drama-filled opening World Supersport race, there was no time to rest before the World Superbikes gridded up for the first time in 2023. 22 laps were set to get underway on a very wet Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round.
Lining up on Pole Position for the first time in 2023 was Toprak Razgatlioglu [Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK]. Next to him was reigning World Champion Alvaro Bautista [Aruba.it Racing – Ducati] and a very hungry rookie Dominique Aegerter [GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team].
When the lights went out, it was Alvaro Bautista who led the way into Turn 1, although his clear vision didn’t last long. From fourth on the grid, hard-charging Jonathan Rea [Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK] made quick work to take the lead from Bautista and eventually led the opening lap of 2023 as they blitzed down Gardner Straight for the first time.
While Rea set the pace up front throughout the first half of the 22-lap race, there was a hard-charging World Champion in hot pursuit. Rea left the door slightly open on the entry of Turn 3, and Bautista charged his #1 machine up the inside to take the lead.
While Rea did all he could, he wasn’t able to put up a fight. Ultimately, it was Alvaro Bautista who took the honours in the opening World Superbike Race of the 2023 World Superbike Championship, marking his 6th win at the Phillip Island Circuit from 10 starts. Jonathan Rea took second place, 3.4 seconds behind.
Further back on the opening few laps, it was a tussle between Pole sitter Razgatlioglu and double World Supersport Champion Dominique Aegerter. In no doubt horrendous conditions to debut in his first World Superbike race, Aegerter was visibly cautious on the opening laps, not able to capitalise on his front-row start in trying conditions.
Razgatlioglu managed to break away from Aegerter quite early into the race, with Aegerter quickly dropping down the timesheets as he struggled to adapt to the wet conditions. Razgatlioglu had a somewhat lonely ride home to take the chequered flag in third place, proving the ‘Titanic Trio’ may be back out to play in 2023.
It was yet another strong start for Andrea Locatelli [Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK], who brought it home in fourth place. Axel Bassani [Motocorsa Racing] rounded out the top five while also finishing as the lead Independent rider on his Ducati Panigale V4 R.
No doubt a tough ride for Remy Gardner [GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK] in less than ideal conditions to kick-start his World Superbike campaign. Gardner managed to bring his Yamaha YZF R1 home in 12th place and the fourth fastest Independent rider.
In a far less eventful race in comparison to World Supersport, Michael van der Mark [RokiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team] was the first faller of the race. Van der Mark put in an early charge, working his way up the field to ninth before his BMW came tumbling through Hayshed, the fastest section of the 4.445km circuit. Another heavy faller was Sam Lowes [Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK] who came tumbling down through Turn 2 during the later stage of the race. Lowes was taken to medical for a further check up.
Alvaro Bautista: “I am happy because nobody had a good feeling with this situation of the track but I just tried to keep calm and tried to understand the track. I saw on the warmup lap when I was behind other riders, there was a lot of water spray and I could see nothing, so when I arrived to the grid I knew I had to make a good start and have no one in front and lead to have clear vision. Jonathan was faster than me in the first laps, but I just tried to keep calm and after a few laps I started to see that our pace was similar, but behind him in some places I could not see anything. I could give my best and get the maximum in the conditions that we had.”
Jonathan Rea: “Firstly just a big shout out to John McPhee [WorldSSP] to have never been here before and yeah it was just so cool to see him at Parc Ferme. I felt comfortable straight away. We made a great start, the conditions I felt good straight away. I just put my head down but I ran into a few issues with my shifter and I had to sort of relearn how to ride the bike again. But, when Alvaro came past I could see I was better in some areas but he was better in others and I was trying to learn and adapt but it was difficult, especially on the gas and on the edge of the tyre, it was so easy to lose the rear. Everything you know feels good, good good and then all of a sudden you lose traction and the rear lets go. The more I pushed, the more issues I had. It was a nervous race, the conditions weren’t as great as they were in November. The target was a podium and I’m thankful for the points.”
Toprak Razgatlioglu [Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK]: “I just tried to fight for the best position. I am not really happy, but happy to finish the race in a good position for me, this is the best result for me. I tried in the race to come for Alvaro and Jonny, but I had a problem with the water in my visor I could not see. Tomorrow looks like the weather is better, so we will see what the track conditions look like.”
Your top 10 from Race 1 WorldSBK
P1 – Alvaro Bautista [Aruba.it Racing – Ducati]
P2 – Jonathan Rea [Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK] +3.471
P3 – Toprak Razgatliolgu [Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK] +6.168
P4 – Andrea Locatelli [Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK] +16.789
P5 – Axel Bassani [Motocorsa Racing] +20.918
P6 – Iker Lecuona [Team HRC] +27.015
P7 – Danilo Petrucci [Barni Spark Racing Team] +30.383
P8 – Xavi Vierge [Team HRC] +30.625
P9 – Scott Redding [RokiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team] +37.447
P10 – Garrett Gerloff [Bonovo Action BMW] +42.591
P12 – Remy Gardner [GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team] +48.833
Written by Tayla Relph. Images by Russell Colvin