Having claimed a double win in Australia in the first round of the season, Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista proved it was no fluke with another impressive Race 1 win in Thailand.
For the last four years, the Superbike World Championship has been all about Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea, who has claimed four successive championships.
But at the Chang International Circuit on Saturday, Rea came off second best to newcomer Bautista for the third straight time this season, as he was forced to settle for another runner-up finish behind the former MotoGP rider.
It looks like we have a fascinating season ahead, with Rea and Kawasaki being forced to fight tooth and nail to maintain their incredible dominance of recent years.
After demolishing the lap record at Buriram to claim his first pole of the series, going almost half a second quicker than Rea, Bautista had the luxury of starting from the front of the grid on his V4 R.
But it Rea who made the better start of the two by diving into the lead on the opening lap, and after Bautista failed to make overtaking move on lap 3 stick, causing him to clash fairings with Rea, the Spaniard was forced to ease off and allow Alex Lowes to take third.
Bautista was able to shrug the incident off, however, almost immediately retaking second from Lowes on lap four, before going after Rea.
By lap eight, he’d caught up to the reigning champion, and promptly took the lead at the hairpin, this time without clashing with Rea, before making full use of his incredible pace to maintain his grip on first place all the way to the finish.
Rea crossed the line in second, while Pata Yamaha’s Lowes saw off teammate Michael van der Mark to claim the final spot on the podium.
Rea’s teammate Leon Haslam was involved in a race-long battle with GRT Yamaha’s Marco Melandri for fifth place, which he eventually won.
Seventh place went to Melandri’s teammate Sandro Cortese, while Michael Ruben Rinaldi took eighth place for Barni Ducati.
Seemingly lacking top-end speed on his BMW, Tom Sykes had to settle for ninth place, with Kawasaki Puccetti Racing rider Toprak Razgatlioglu rounding out the top 10.
RACE 1 RESULTS
- Alvaro Bautista ESP Aruba.it Racing – Ducati 20 laps
- Jonathan Rea GBR Kawasaki Racing Team +8.217s
- Alex Lowes GBR Pata Yamaha +14.155s
- Michael van der Mark NED Pata Yamaha +14.623s
- Leon Haslam GBR Kawasaki Racing Team +18.554s
- Marco Melandri ITA GRT Yamaha +18.681s
- Sandro Cortese GER GRT Yamaha +25.603s
- Michael Ruben Rinaldi ITA Barni Racing Team Ducati +27.603s
- Tom Sykes GBR BMW WorldSBK Team +28.789s
- Toprak Razgatlioglu TUR Kawasaki Puccetti Racing +32.153s
- Jordi Torres ESP Team Pedercini Racing Kawasaki +33.033s
- Leandro Mercado ARG Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki +33.254s
- Leon Camier GBR Moriwaki Althea Honda Team +34.232s
- Markus Reiterberger GER BMW WorldSBK Team +43.041s
- Chaz Davies GBR Aruba.it Racing – Ducati +54.495s
- Thitipong Warokorn THA Kawasaki Thailand Racing Team +1m
- Alessandro Delbianco ITA Althea Mie Racing Team Honda +1m
Did not finish
Ryuichi Kiyonari JPN Moriwaki Althea Honda Team
Eugene Laverty IRE Team Go Eleven Ducati