WorldSBK Indonesia: Bautista back on top as Vierge podiums| Christina Bulpett | WorldSBK
While Aruba.it Ducati looked odds on for the WorldSBK race two victory at Mandalika, Alvaro Bautista wasn’t the obvious choice until Sunday’s final stages.
The Spaniard picked off teammate Michael Rinaldi on the penultimate lap to clinch his fifth win of six races in 2023 amid a rollercoaster Sunday afternoon in Indonesia. Superpole winner Toprak Razgatlioglu and a jubilant Xavi Vierge completed the podium with the Honda rider celebrating for the first time in his Superbike career.
The final race of the Indonesian weekend lined up without Bonovo BMW’s Loris Baz. The Frenchman having sustained a fractured right proximal fibula and right ankle during the morning’s Superpole sprint. MIE Honda’s Eric Granado also missing from proceedings due to ongoing sickness.
An earlier crash for Bautista left the Aruba rider tenth on the grid for the concluding action with Razgatlioglu back on pole. Yamaha teammate Andrea Locatelli and Kawasaki’s Alex Lowes alongside on the front row.
Lights out for 21 laps and Razgatlioglu took the holeshot as Jonathan Rea swapped positions with his Kawasaki teammate. Motocorsa’s Axel Bassani splitting the pair from fourth as Vierge advanced to sixth.
Lowes was back in fourth as Rea took a look at Locatelli at the conclusion to the opening lap. Bassani hitting back at the number 22 before he lunged at Rea. The aftermath disrupting the two Yamahas with Razgatlioglu down to fifth, Locatelli seventh, as Bassani claimed the lead from the Kawasaki pairing.
An advancing Michael Rinaldi found the Ducati rider quickly in podium contention before he dispatched both ZX-10RR’s for second position. Bautista struggling to make the same progress from eighth as his teammate took charge out front.
Lap five kicked off with Lowes bettering Rea for the final podium position after a moment in the final sector, Razgatlioglu the next to dispatch the six-time champion as Bautista did likewise on Locatelli.
Rinaldi held a near two-second lead as he set the fastest lap on his sixth revolution. Razgatlioglu advancing on a trio of riders as he claimed second, Lowes wide at the opening corner as he dropped to 14th with Bassani pushed wide by Rea in a similar move.
Disaster struck the BMW of Michael van der Mark as the Dutchman crashed out with a heavy highside, Go Eleven’s Philipp Oettl caught up in the aftermath at turn 11 before Scott Redding spun out of his own move on Locatelli. The race red-flagged after seven laps completed.
Rinaldi headed the 14-lap restart, albeit having lost his 2.5s advantage from the previous session. Razgatlioglu and Vierge alongside on the front row with the rejuvenated Bautista behind.
The Ducati rider bettered the Honda off the line as Rinaldi maintained command overall. Rea quickly coming under pressure from Bassani before he retained position in the top five while Locatelli and Barni’s Danilo Petrucci headed Iker Lecuona and Redding from sixth to tenth.
Rinaldi’s lead was nearing a second as lap three began. Bautista struggling to find a way through on the 2021 champion as further back GRT Yamaha’s Remy Gardner battled Bonovo’s Garrett Gerloff for tenth.
Bautista advanced to second as Bassani did likewise on Rea for fifth with four laps done. Rinaldi checking out ahead as third to eighth, covered by less than two seconds, continued to bicker.
Rea’s race came to an abrupt conclusion after a turn seven slide on lap nine. Locatelli through to head the fifth-place fight from Bassani and Petrucci with Lecuona, Gardner and Redding now rounding out the top ten.
Bautista began to reel in his teammate as he cut the gap from eight tenths to less than one with four laps to go. The 27-year-old defending hard from his more experienced rival before the reigning champion made his move at turn ten.
The final lap unfolded with Gardner making waves on his way to seventh. Bassani dropping down to eighth after his early podium challenge before disaster struck the race-long leader. Rinaldi ran wide with Razgatlioglu and Vierge quick to capitalise for the final podium positions, the Italian regrouping for a frustrating fourth place finish.
Locatelli headed rookies Petrucci and Gardner from fifth to seventh with Bassani, Lecuona and Redding rounding out the top ten. Gerloff, GRT’s Dominique Aegerter, Lowes, GMT94’s Lorenzo Baldassarri and MIE Honda’s Hafizh Syahrin all collecting points as the final finishers.