Alvaro Bautista produced a remarkable start to this WorldSBK career with victory by 15 seconds in the opening race of the 2019 season at Phillip Island. The Spaniard snatched the lead on the opening lap before making an astonishing escape, leaving defending champion Jonathan Rea an alarmingly distant second.
Although Bautista had been fastest in pre-season testing, and the earlier practice sessions, in Australia, the traditional status quo appeared to have been restored in Superpole as Rea claimed pole position, clocking the fastest ever superbike lap of Phillip Island. The Ulsterman edged out his new Kawasaki team-mate Leon Haslam with Bautista settling for third, but the Ducati rider wouldn’t trail the green machines for long.
In fact, Alvaro would only wait three turns before putting some manners on the world champion, powering up the inside of Rea at Stoner corner. What followed had the entire paddock stunned as the Spanish rookie eased away at one second per lap, opening up a nine-second advantage by half distance. It was at this stage that Rea came under pressure from Haslam but the inter-team squabble was settled on lap 13 when the BSB champion lost control at the Honda hairpin, dropping him to 15th.
By the chequered flag, Bautista was a full 15 seconds clear of his nearest challenger, a gap that would have been even larger had the Spaniard not cruised across the line in celebration. Rea banked 20 useful points for second, and will start on pole position for tomorrow’s ten-lap Superpole race, while last year’s double winner Marco Melandri handed GRT Yamaha a podium finish on their premier class debut, overhauling Alex Lowes in the closing stages.
Michael van der Mark also finished strongly to take fifth ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu while Tom Sykes secured seventh for the all-new BMW factory squad. Supersport champion Sandro Cortese was eighth ahead of Michael Ruben Rinaldi with Chaz Davies enduring a miserable afternoon in tenth having started 16th on the grid.