Front Axel and Philipp’s Island: Bassani and Oettl show strength in Round 1

Monday, 27 February 2023 07:26 GMT

Two Ducati Independent stars who shone brightly in Australia, is this the start of something special for the #47 and the #5?

After a blistering opening round in the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, we have our first look at how the field is looking for the remainder of the season – or do we? In what was arguably one of the most unexpected set of results – apart from race winner Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) – to start the season, it was Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) and Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) who enjoyed their best starts to a WorldSBK season with stunning top five finishes and finishing ahead of the likes of Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) after a race-long battle in Race 2 on Sunday afternoon.

Starting with Bassani, it was a strong performance by the Italian who made up crucial ground from his P14 Superpole position to finish Race 1 in sixth. However, in Sunday morning’s Tissot Superpole Race, he had to do it all over again and with less time to do so. However, always performing stronger in the races than in Superpole, Bassani picked his way through the field and was on the fringes of the top ten. When Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was taken out by teammate Remy Gardner, Bassani was then inside the top nine, taking ninth at the flag and crucially, bettering his starting position for Race 2.

RESCUED WEEKEND: P14 to P4, the BASS didn’t drop

Always with stunning pace at the start of the race, he was fifth by the end of Lap 1 before leading the battle for fourth on Lap 2. Constant battling with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), teammate Alex Lowes and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), Bassani got stuck in. He collided twice with Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) in as many laps at Turn 4, before picking his way back through the field to take fourth back from Rea, with a stellar move at Turn 1.

His best ever start to a WorldSBK campaign and fifth in the standings going to Mandalika, Bassani had reason to be jubilant: “Today we did a really good job in the Superpole Race. It was important to finish in the top nine as I did a really bad Superpole! It was good, we started from P9 and started to have a good battle with Jonny, Toprak and Alex but lost a lot of time. I think that if it was possible to overtake Jonny before, we had the possibility to arrive on the podium. We’ll see next race and I want to arrive on the podium now! It was a crazy battle, I like it a lot and this is WorldSBK, with a lot of overtakes. It’s not easy to overtake at this circuit, with only two points. I finished in P4, so I am really happy. We need to do better Superpoles as this year, the level is really high. All the riders are really fast and you need to push 100% for the whole race. If you start from behind, it’s not easy to recover those positions.”

Talking about riding without the winglet after his collision with Lecuona, Bassani elaborated: “It was like before, nothing strange! I saw the wing go, and I thought ‘oh s**t’, but after it was normal, and I felt good! I overtook Jonny, it was really good! Last year, it was more difficult because the wings were bigger, but now they’re smaller, so there wasn’t a lot of difference!”

REVELATION OF THE WEEK: Oettl earns a top five

‘Solid’ is perhaps an understatement for Philipp Oettl’s start to 2023; a revelation in testing and indeed going into the Phillip Island round, he took career-best results. Only 11th in the wet Race 1, Oettl came good for sixth place in the Superpole Race to equal his best finish, whilst it was fifth place – and so nearly fourth as he was catching Bassani in the closing laps – in Race 2, looking comfortably quicker than those around him, including six-time Champion Rea, 2021 Champion Razgatlioglu and the factory Honda of Iker Lecuona.

Assessing his best-ever weekend in WorldSBK from a points perspective, Oettl said: “It was a big battle, and I had a great bike to be honest. The team did an amazing job in testing and all weekend. We did a great job, and I am happy with today’s results. In the second race, I wanted to be best Independent but I am with the top five result! The Superpole Race is normally really difficult because everyone fights with the knife between the teeth, and the pace was incredibly high! You have to consider that there was a test before the race and then in the race, the level is so high, and the competition is very difficult. I hope for more battles like this in the future but now I am curious to go to Indonesia and a completely different track, so let’s see what we can do there!”

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