Featured WSBK: Bautista dominates in Thailand to take Race One win

Discussion in 'Racing' started by Simon, Mar 16, 2019.

  1. Simon

    Simon Professional storyteller
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    The opening race of the Thai Round in the WSBK world championship saw an intense fight between reigning champion Jonathan Rea and series newcomer Alvaro Bautista, with Bautista using the Ducati's speed advantage to power past the Kawasaki rider to take his fourth win of the season.

    An action-packed start saw Bautista originally get a flying start but Buriram specialist Rea got ahead of the Spaniard through Turn 1 with Yamaha's Alex Lowes tucked in behind.

    The GRT riders of Sandro Cortese and Marco Melandri ran wide at the same turn, with BMW's Tom Sykes slicing under them and into fourth. At the end of lap one, the top four were covered by 1.1s. A lightening start from Yamaha's Michael van der Mark saw him rise from 10th on the grid to fifth by the end of the opening lap.

    On lap three, Rea led by a narrow margin ahead of championship leader Bautista, and Bautista pounced at Turn 3, only for Rea to cut back underneath him, colliding with his rival. Bautista managed to hold on and regroup, and while Lowes came through, Bautista shook his head in disgust at Rea’s aggressive pass.

    It didn't take long for Bautista to surge forwards again, and the Spaniard made a pass on Lowes at the final corner, only to run wide and Lowes to pass him back down the front straight. Soon enough though, on the fourth lap at Turn 1, Bautista made his way through on Lowes and then set off in his pursuit of the four-time champion.

    With 12 laps to go, Bautista had regained ground on Rea and set about trying to find a way ahead of the Kawasaki-mounted rider. On the run to the Turn 3, Bautista got ahead and this time, he was able to make the move stick. The two continued to romp away from the rest of the pack and while Rea didn’t lose too much time on Bautista initially, lap after lap, Bautista’s metronomic pace soon saw him break clear.

    With the third place battle seemingly a stalemate between the Pata riders, Leon Haslam was starting to feel the pressure of Marco Melandri. Melandri made his way ahead on lap 11, but the battle was far from over. With just five laps to go, a rough lap from Melandri allowed Haslam to close up and make a move at the final corner. Haslam ran wide and the wily Italian cut back under him, clashing on the start and finish straight.

    Out in front, an imperious Bautista took the win by 8.2s ahead of Rea, with Lowes finishing ahead of Michael van der Mark by 0.4s to take his third Buriram podium. In fifth position, Leon Haslam clinched the place over Melandri, whilst Sandro Cortese took seventh after a late battle with Barni Raciing's Michael Ruben Rinaldi. Sykes was ninth after being pushed back due to his top speed deficit, with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) coming from 13th to 10th.

    Bautista said: "For sure today has been tougher than Australia. I knew that Johnny would be fighting with me in the race because we had a similar pace during the free practices. I didn't make a good start. I went wide in the first corner and lost the first position. I kept pushing and I caught Rea, and we had a clash at Turn 3 that almost made me crash. After a few laps, I was able to recover and find back my rhythm. I pushed to the limit and passed Johnny to take the win. I am really happy because even if my feeling with the bike wasn't perfect, I was still able to win".

    Bautista’s win makes him the first Ducati rider since Neil Hodgson in 2003 to win the opening four races of a WSBK season. He gives Ducati their 345th win in the World Superbike class, as well as their 587th WSBK podium. He also becomes the first non-British rider to win at the Chang International Circuit.
     

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