HOT HEADLINES FROM PHILLIP ISLAND: 2023 ignites with flames Down Under

Tuesday, 28 February 2023 08:32 GMT

A new season, new excitement, same behind-the-scenes drama: all the fallout from Australia

Round 1 is in the bag and the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is off and running, with plenty of stories right the way through the paddock. With big wins, strong starts, new stars and ex World Champions have a nightmare, we kept our ear firmly to the ground and from Phillip Island, these are the first batch of hot headlines for the year.

Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati): “It has been the perfect weekend!”

A triple to start the title defence, Alvaro Bautista was unbeatable: “We can say it has been a perfect weekend. Three races, but three very different races. I felt good in each one and I felt competitive in each one, so I’m really happy. I made a step forward as I have more experience with the tyres, the bike, both together, the reference… the new bike gave me a bit more of an easier ride exiting from the corners. I’d like to improve the stability of the bike in exit of the corner as the bike moves a lot. The combination of the bike with me and the weight, it’s not easy to put load on the bike and also in the changes of direction, the bike is up many times, Because I’m small, I have to move a lot with my body. But it is difficult to resolve this problem as it is the combination.”

Michael Ruben Rinaldi ( Racing – Ducati): “It’ll be the best version of Michael… I’ve sacrificed a lot”

The best start to a WorldSBK campaign in terms of podiums, Michael Ruben Rinaldi gave insight to his journey to get there: “I spoke with my trainer, and he said to me, ‘we improved a lot like this, but we still have this’, but it’ll be the best version of Michael. In these months, I’ve sacrificed a lot; no more parties, no more staying out late, I was in bed at 10, always! During Christmas and New Year as well. This is my life now. Yesterday, I was upset because after I sacrificed a lot – or changed a lot of my routine – I finished P14, 55 seconds from the win, I said ‘f**k, why?’. But I kept on; on Sunday morning, I trained and followed the plan and I think that I have room for improvement!”

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK): “We were miles off… I was still nowhere”

In his worst start to a WorldSBK season since joining Kawasaki, Jonathan Rea was mystified as to why he only managed P8 in Race 2 on Sunday: “We were fast in certain areas but consistently not good enough. We really struggled with setup and some different factors out there, like when the wind changed, tyre temperatures went up on Friday. There’s been some areas where it’s been incredible. I was really strong in FP3. Hard to put it all together to understand where we fell short. Clearly, today in the races that we didn’t quite nail the setup. We were miles off at the end of the race. Even after looking after my tyre, using short lines, doing everything I could with my experience to manage the race, I was still nowhere. We dropped off a cliff at the end, it’s really frustrating. I have to take some responsibility because it’s the direction we’ve been going from Monday. The crew have to take some responsibility but that’s led by me, my direction and my feedback. Bit of a look in the mirror to try and understand why we struggled so much.”

Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK): “We crashed with Alex; it wasn’t his fault”

After a Race 2 to forget, Toprak Razgatlioglu discussed his issues: “The big problem in Race 2 was everybody was using harder tyres. In the Superpole Race, everybody used SC0 tyres. With this tyre, my bike is unbelievable, and I had a very good feeling. If we had one more lap, maybe I pass Michael because he started to drop. In Race 2, we used the harder tyre, and my bike was completely changing. In the first laps, I didn’t feel the grip and the bike wasn’t turning. I just tried to keep the rear tyre. I followed Jonny and tried for the best position. We crashed with Alex; it wasn’t his fault. I went wide a little bit to keep a good line, he crashed and hit me.”

Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK): “Toprak has a bit of a different riding style, maybe this is the problem”

Talking about the struggles of his teammate at Phillip Island, Locatelli stated: “It’s difficult to say but Toprak has a bit of a different riding style, and maybe this is the problem. I don’t know what happened. I’m a bit disappointed because last year, he wasn’t so bad here, but I don’t know what happened. I can say nothing about him because I don’t know which is the real problem. In my side, we worked well in the pre-season, so we arrived here with a good idea and a good base setup, and everything was good. It’s difficult to say.”

Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team): In the Superpole Race it was like a fight in a bar, they really slammed my face in every direction!”

The first weekend is done for Danilo Petrucci in WorldSBK, and the all-new challenge of the Tissot Superpole Race was certainly an experience: “In the Superpole Race it was like a fight in a bar. In the first laps, they really slammed my face in every direction, and at the end of the first lap I was in 18th position. "I said ‘oh, I have to wake up as soon as possible’. Finishing 11th… I was not happy, but it was a really nice weekend and I’m really happy to have joined this paddock.”

Talking about his penalty after a collision with Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) on the final lap of Race 1, ‘Petrux’ believed it was fair: “I didn’t imagine Xavi was close to me in the corner. He passed me but then I tried to close the line, but he closed the corner. I tried to cross the line, but he was there, so we touched two times. I’m not appealing. If I’m in the opposite situation, I think it’s fair.”

Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing): “I want a podium… I NEED a podium!”

A strong Sunday for Axel Bassani, who in his usual humorous way, discussed everything: “We had to fight with World Champions like Toprak and Jonny and it’s not easy to overtake those guys. I understood how to make the overtakes and we had a good pace. If I overtook before, we could arrive to the podium! I saw on the big screens that Philipp was behind me on the last lap, and I just thought, ‘no Philipp, you don’t overtake me today!’. We need to find a solution for Superpole as it’s a problem for me; I want to find a solution for Mandalika. With the extra grip of the new tyre, we have a lot of problems. We need to start better from Friday. I like the races, not the Free Practice! When I’m in a race weekend, I put 100% but when I’m testing, I just want to understand the bike. I don’t know why; from when I was young, I was like that. When I’m in a weekend, I understand the bike but before, in the tests, it’s all s**t! Everything you try, ‘no good, no good, no good’ but in the race weekends, you start to say, ‘it’s OK, we can work in this way’. I need to start pushing in tests like I do in race weekends. We finished twice in the top five, but I want a podium… I need a podium!”

Iker Lecuona (Team HRC): My pace was similar or exactly the same to Kawasaki or Yamaha like Toprak… we can fight until the end!”

Two top six finishes in Australia, a strong start for Iker Lecuona: “My pace was similar or exactly the same to Kawasaki or Yamaha like Toprak. We improved a lot at the end of the races so we can keep the pace and we showed today that we can fight until the end. It was a very good feeling. I’m a bit frustrated because I missed some power in a few areas that I need to recover. In the last corner, I missed three or four tenths, just in the acceleration area. It’s for the electronics. We want to take care of the tyre, we don’t want to smoke it, so we cut the power a little bit. in the end, I could fight!”

Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team): “It had highlights… I overtook a six-time World Champion two or three times at the same point!”

Speaking of his WorldSBK debut weekend, Dominique Aegerter assessed a crash with his teammate and a weekend full of highlights: “Remy didn’t want to do it on purpose. I think we could’ve had a perfect team finish in the Superpole Race because I think we could’ve finished top five with both of us. In Race 2, I think we also could’ve fought between fourth and tenth, there was a big group. It had highlights: I’m riding with the best in the world in the highest category with some experienced riders. I was showing that I can be very, very fast. For a few seconds, I was in P1 in Superpole! I had the fastest lap time in the Superpole Race. These were the highlights. The other highlight was I overtook a six-time World Champion two or three times at the same point.”

ROUND 2 AWAITS: enjoy all the action LIVE and OnDemand wherever you are with the WorldSBK VideoPass!