WorldSBK Phillip Island: Bautista triumphs in sprint tyre gamble

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Aruba.it Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista took a determined victory at Phillip Island on Sunday having gambled on slick Pirellis in the Superpole sprint.

The Spaniard claimed the win three seconds clear of Pata Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu and Saturday race winner Jonathan Rea, with the duo split by just 0.043s at the flag.

Heavy rain hit the circuit as the grid prepared for the 10-lap Superpole race, and while it dispersed as quickly as it arrived, the pack was left with questions over tyre choices ahead of the sprint action on the sodden but quick drying track.

Bautista lined the Panigale up on pole, and on slicks ahead of Kawasaki’s Rea and Alex Lowes, with the pair opting for intermediates in the mix conditions. Razgatlioglu, Andrea Locatelli and Garrett Gerloff completed an all-Yamaha second row on their respective Pata and GRT liveried R1’s with the American aiming for a strong finish to his Blu Cru career ahead of next season’s switch to BMW.

GoEleven’s Philipp Oettl and BMW’s Scott Redding dipped to the pits at the end of the warm up lap for an immediate tyre switch, Razgatlioglu taking the holeshot as the lights released the remainder of the pack. Lowes was quickly up to second from fifth off the start with Locatelli trailing the KRT until a lightning fast Michael van der Mark arrived on the second BMW.

Rea regrouped and found his way back to third as the intermediate tyres bedded in on the second lap. Lowes taking charge overall as Bautista slipped down to 15th on the slicks. Kyle Smith made waves in the lower group as he placed the Pedercini Kawasaki up to 11th with Puccetti Kawasaki’s Lucas Mahias and Tetsuta Nagashima ahead. Bautista now behind as he looked to find his rhythm before Redding capitalised on the Champion as lap three counted down.

Van der Mark hit the pits as Rea advanced to second. Razgatlioglu just a tenth adrift of the Kawasaki duo with teammate Locatelli almost two seconds back and in his own battle with Gerloff for fourth.

Bautista’s pace increased as he advanced to eighth at the start of lap five. Bonovo BMW’s Loris Baz the next in his sights but over a second ahead with Honda’s Xavi Vierge running sixth.

Rea was through to the lead at the halfway stage with the Yamaha following for second as Lowes dropped to third. Bautista dispatching the Frenchman for seventh as his pace intensified and Vierge quickly came into view.

Four to go and Rea held a half second lead over his nearest rival before Razgatlioglu hit back with a personal best. Bautista up to fourth having bettered Vierge, Gerloff and Locatelli in quick succession as his dry gamble began to fully pay off.

Lowes came under pressure as his tyres struggled with the conditions. The Spaniard instantly capitalising as he claimed the final podium position at Lukey Heights with just over two laps to go before storming past Rea as the next began.

The final lap kicked off with Bautista in the lead having dispatched Razgatlioglu once again at Lukey Heights. The WorldSBK Champion gapping his rivals by a massive two seconds halfway round to meet the flag over three seconds clear after a determined ride from the back of the field.

Razgatlioglu claimed second from Rea and Lowes with Redding denied fifth by Locatelli across the line. Gerloff, Vierge and Barni Ducati’s Xavi Fores secured the final points on offer in the all-important top nine.

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