"We have to enjoy the moment, good confidence for the Championship" – Bautista, Rinaldi react after double 1-2

Sunday, 26 February 2023 06:03 GMT

Ducati duo Alvaro Bautista and Michael Ruben Rinaldi secured two 1-2 finishes for the Italian manufacturer on a perfect Sunday for the team

The season-opening Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship could not have gone much better for Ducati at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit after three wins and two second places for the factory team. Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) started his title defence with a perfect 62 points score in Australia while teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi bounced back from a difficult Saturday to take two podium finishes and his best result at Phillip Island.

Bautista made history when he took Race 2 victory as it meant he became the first rider in WorldSBK to take five hat-tricks since the three-race format was introduced in 2019 while he is also the first rider to take two hat-tricks at the same circuit following his 2019 treble. A maximum 62-point haul means he heads into Indonesia 28 points clear of second-placed Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) while his title rivals from 2022, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) are third and sixth respectively.

The Spanish rider was denied a pole position in Saturday’s Tissot Superpole session by a stunning lap from Razgatlioglu, but he was able to take Race 1 victory in wet conditions after a battle with Rea. On Sunday, dry conditions greeted the riders for the Tissot Superpole Race and Race 2 and Bautista took full advantage to add two more victories to his name, putting him on 35 wins and 61 podiums in WorldSBK during his five seasons in the Championship.

Reacting to his historic hat-trick, Bautista said: “I think it’s the best way to start the season. I’m happy because we were quite competitive in all three races with three different situations. Yesterday with the rain we were quick, and we could win the race. Today, in the morning, with not cold conditions but cooler than in the afternoon and the soft compound and with everybody pushing, we were competitive as well. In the afternoon, it was totally different. The track was hotter, and we had the hard compound on the rear. I’m happy because I can manage and adapt to the new situation and I can be very consistent with my lap times. The feeling with the bike has been amazing this weekend in all conditions. Now, we have to enjoy the moment and just try to keep this feeling for the next one.”

Rinaldi could only manage 14th place in Race 1 after claiming sixth in the Superpole session. However, on Sunday, he was able to charge through the field from sixth to second in the Superpole Race which gave him a front row start for Race 2 as well as Ducati’s first 1-2 of the weekend. In Race 2, he was able to convert second on the grid to second in Race 2 as he claimed his first rostrum visits in WorldSBK at Phillip Island. Prior to 2023, his best had been seventh in Race 2 in 2022.

On his Australia podiums, Rinaldi said: “I’m really happy about today. I was upset on Saturday after a strong start to pre-season, and on Friday we were strong. We faced rain conditions on Saturday, and I felt really bad in the wet. I couldn’t push. After the race, I was disappointed. For the next races, we need to understand why we couldn’t perform in wet conditions. I knew it wasn’t raining today so I knew where my level was. I pushed. I tried to follow the plan that I talked about with the team. We checked the lap times from the test and from Friday and we thought maybe I couldn’t fight for the win, but for second place. Today we followed that, and I felt really good on the bike. Starting like this at Phillip Island, a track where I’ve struggled a little bit in the past, is really, really good for the confidence we need to have for the whole Championship.”

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