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Bautista Dominates WSB Testing at Phillip Island

Álvaro Bautista (Ducati) ran near the front in MotoGP last year on several occasions for Ducati, and now he has moved to the Ducati WSB team to contest the championship aboard the new V4. On his new bike, with new tires, Bautista is already very fast and is perhaps the favorite to win the Phillip Island opener this coming weekend.

Bautista was consistently the fastest rider during testing earlier this week at Phillip Island, as described in the WSB press release below:

Álvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) stormed to the top of the timesheets again on Tuesday at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit with a best lap of 1’30.303, a whole 0.440 seconds faster than his best from the previous day and nearly half a second quicker than four-time world champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), fourth fastest at the Aussie racetrack.

Tuesday morning saw kinder winds and warmer conditions than the opening day of testing. Despite this, the bar that Ducati’s Spaniard had set on Monday remained unsurpassed by all but three riders. Bautista has emerged as the early and clear frontrunner for the opening race of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, and it will be interesting to see who, if anyone, can match the hairsplitting pace he’s put on display here.

Nonetheless, six more men did manage to set sub 1’31 laps, with second-placed Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team)and fifth-placed Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) split by two tenths of a second.

In between them in fourth sat Jonathan Rea, who had previously topped nearly every pre-season testing session in 2018 and 2019. No one will be disregarding the reigning World Champion any time soon however. It bears repeating that Rea is still on an 11-race winning streak and when he is on his game there are few, if any riders capable of going the distance with the four-time champion. But for now, the gap between the two men has been striking: just in the first Tuesday session, Bautista recorded seven laps faster than Rea’s then best of 1’30.761.

Testing is much more than setting fast lap times however, and there was again much work to be done on Tuesday in Australia. Rea’s teammate Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) made great strides on the ZX-10RR, putting in more laps (74) than anyone out on track. The Englishman’s base setup is very similar to the reigning champion’s, with Haslam’s crew now focused on tweaking it to his own style. It seems to be working well, as a late flurry of times pushed the 35-year-old above Rea on the timesheets.

Chaz Davies ( Racing – Ducati) meanwhile managed to cut down his best lap time from Monday by a full second, as he continues to find his feet on the Panigale V4 R, although the Welshman was still nearly 1.5s behind his teammate’s pace.

2018 double Aussie winner Marco Melandri closed Tuesday as fifth best after hard work was put in to the front of his Yamaha YZF R1. With an optimal setup now in place, attention veered towards finetuning in the afternoon. Ditto for the rookie Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK), eighth at Phillip Island.

A big midday crash down Turn 1 and a late tumble across turn 4 for Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) were the main setbacks on Tuesday for the Crescent Racing squad. Neither the Brit – ninth – nor Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) – seventh – were far off the pace, however, with their attention focused on finding a good balance for the always treacherous Aussie track.

A series of red flags in the morning hindered many a race simulation around the paddock, but it was still a good day’s work for the BMW Motorrad squad as both Sykes and Markus Reiterberger – struggling yesterday with a small shoulder injury – tested different chassis solutions, with both men meeting expectations.

A tricky opening day for Moriwaki Althea Honda Team led to improved performances on Tuesday, as they fight against the clock to find a good base setup for Phillip Island. Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) crept into the top 10 throughout most of the day with a best lap of 1’31.443 (eventually falling to 13th), while Ryuichi Kiyonari ended in 15th position.

A late fastest lap pushed Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) up to a fantastic sixth in the Tuesday standings. The Turkish starlet is still going through the 2019 updates on the ZX-10RR, as was the case for Jordi Torres and Team Pedercini Racing, while Tati Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) focused on improving tyre preservation. Steps forward were also taken by Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) and Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), although the former suffered a technical problem close to the end of session one. Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) and wildcard Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda Racing) closed the timesheets.

Official Test Phillip Island. Official times from Day Two. WorldSBK

1. Álvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati)                        1’30.303

2. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team)                       1’30.539

3. Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)                1’30.668

4. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)               1’30.722

5. Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK)                            1’30.760

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  1. Dave says:

    Go check the race results if you haven’t. WHOA…

  2. Joe says:

    Very interesting!
    To see a brand new machine run this fast right off the bat when there’s usually time and testing needed to work through the new bike, new rider teething problems is a testament to some amazing engineering and rider/team competence.
    Rea has been so consistently dominant these past four years. Does this signal a changing of the guard for the title and a provocation for Kawasaki to fast track the next Gen ZX10RR ?
    After all, this current version has been in production since 2011 albeit with some significant updates , but still the same basic machine.

  3. Daslipper says:

    Anyone know who is broadcasting wsbk in the states?

  4. Dave says:

    For comparison, the Phillip Island race lap record for WSBK bikes is listed at 1:30.848 (Feb. 25, 2018, Melandri, Ducati Panigale R), pole/practice is @ 1:29.573 (Feb. 25, 2017, J. Rea, Kawasaki).

    I don’t think they were running qualifier tires at this test.

  5. Pacer says:

    How many rpm will they take from the Ducati?

    • Hot Dog says:

      Jeez, you’d think AMA, which was a puppet of Harley during the rise of Honda on American Flat Track, was running this series. You know, penalize the leader to promote the loser. Duc built a bike to win, let the others catch up.

      • Dave says:

        Racing is a marketing exercise. If the cost gets to catch Ducati gets too high, the other manufacturers will take their ball and play elsewhere. MotoGP is just recovering from this problem.

    • Pablo says:

      They won’t take any rpm from Ducati after one race. Only one Ducati dominated, the other Dukes need be dominating consistently for there to be a RPM cut. Chaz Davies was super competitive with JR last year and was never realy in the hunt at the Island, although it’s only one race.
      The new 10 lap format second race is a good way to mix things up and was a super close result.

  6. Jeremy says:

    I’m not so sure… Having watched him over the years, he tends to crash when pushing subpar machinery to the limit, rather than buckling under pressure. I could be wrong though. Maybe I should go back and watch some of his 250GP races.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Could be bad news for Kawasaki and Rea. Phillip island is usually considered a handling dependent track not horsepower, and I’d be surprised if the new Duc and Beemer didn’t have more ponies than the green machine. This is only a test though, so it’s likely that Rea was more reserved than the new guys.

  8. Anonymous says:

    OMG. Spring is almost here! Can’t wait to watch this weekend.

  9. Jeremy says:

    I always felt Bautista was one of those riders who could be a threat on any given Sunday if he were on good machinery. Heck, he made a pretty good go of it when he had the chance to ride the factory Duc last season.

    This is just one fast lap of course and doesn’t say much of anything. I don’t know what Bautista’s race simulations are looking like lately, but I hear Rea’s are looking mighty strong.

    • mickey says:

      I read he had 7 laps faster than Rea’s fastest lap.

      • Jeremy says:

        Well, that is pretty interesting. Don’t know how much hope he has of challenging Rea his first year on a brand new platform, but I do think Alvaro has the talent to bring it eventually.

    • Curtis says:

      Bautista is obviously fast and this new Duc should be a weapon. However, Bautista is a crasher. I hope as much as anyone that Rea has some competition, but if Rea can stay close enough to put apply any pressure at all, Bautista will crack with some frequency.

  10. Tom R says:

    Less than 1/2 of 1 second among the top five. They are all one hiccup, burp, or fart away from each other.

  11. Burtg says:

    Great move by Ducati! Would love to see this series have more winners. It might get me to renew my WSBK viewing subscription as I cancelled it last year due to Rea’s dominance.

  12. Brian says:

    Nice to see Alvaro up front, especially for the sake of the series to break up Rea’s domination. As has been said many times before though, testing is different than racing, and Alvaro’s was not Mr. Consistency in his MotoGP days. He is a world champion though – so no question he knows how to win.

    • HM says:

      Alvaro never had a full on works Honda and only rode for Suzuki as a works rider iirc. A very good racer and if that Duc becomes happy this year he may well be a consistent front runner imo.

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