With convincing wins in both races of the opening round of the World Superbike Championship (WSBK) in Philip Island, Australia, Spaniard Alvaro Bautista started off his rookie season with a bang. Bautista is the second member of a club where a WSBK rookie has won the first race of the season, the other being John Kosinski at Misano in 1996.
Riding the Aruba.IT racing Ducati Panigale V4R, Bautista took the lead at turn one for Race 2, leaving the front runners to fight it out amongst themselves. At the end of the second race, Bautista took the win, with reigning WSBK champion Jonathan Rea in second and Leon Haslam – both riding for Kawasaki Racing Team – in third.
Bautista’s win in the second race was a repeat of the first, where he come in ahead of Rea and Marco Melandri who was riding the GRT Yamaha YZF-R1. At the conclusion of the first race of the season, Bautista is on top of the rider standings with 62 points and Rea at 49 points.
They are followed by Melandri and Alex Lowes of Pata Yamaha sharing 30 points each. Michael Van Der Mark of Pata Yamaha comes up in fifth with 29 points with Haslam coming in sixth with 24 points.
Further down the standings, Tom Sykes on the BMW Motorrad S1000RR in BMW Motorrad WSBK Team’s debut is ninth in the standings with 12 points. Bautista was 125 cc world champion in 2006 riding for MVA Aspar where he won the championship with three races to spare, grabbing the highest points and most podium finishes along the way.
However, despite moving up to the 250 cc class in 2007 and then to MotoGP in 2010, he failed to repeat his runaway success, despite scoring some podium places, remaining a strong contender just outside the top three. Bautista made the move to WSBK for 2019, after previously riding for Angel Nieto Team and Ducati Corse in 2018.
Next race in the WSBK calendar is Buriram, Thailand on March 16. All photos courtesy of Half Light Photographic.
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