Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) overcame his rivals in an incredible Race 1 for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship to record his 17th victory of the 2023 campaign in style. The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola hosted a sensational battle as Bautista claimed took a stunning win ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) who racked up a century of podiums as he finished second.
WRITING HISTORY: Bautista equals race wins in a season record, 100 up for Razgatlioglu
The opening laps were a sensational fight in front of the passionate Italian fans as two Italian riders led their first laps of the season. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) got the holeshot from second and led until the final chicane on Lap 2, when Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) overtook his compatriot. At the start of Lap 3, Bassani had a huge wobble through Tamburello which dropped him down to fourth, before Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) went through at the Variante Alta at Turn 4.
On Lap 3, 2021 Champion Razgatlioglu made one of the best overtakes of the season as he went around the outside of Bautista on the entry to the Variante Alta to move into P2 behind Locatelli, before it all kicked off at the front as Locatelli, Razgatlioglu and Bautista battled for first. The Turkish rider was able to get ahead of his teammate on the run into Turn 1 when Locatelli ran a bit wide into the final chicane and compromised his exit, although the Italian was able to defend from Bautista. The Spaniard demoted the home hero into third a lap later with an overtake into the Variante Alta before he set his sights on Razgatlioglu.
Razgatlioglu and Bautista pulled out a gap over Rea, who passed Locatelli on Lap 5 at the final chicane, to duel it out for victory although Bautista did briefly lose second to the six-time Champion after he had a massive moment on the run to the Variante Alta on Lap 8; he swiftly re-passed Rea to take second place back. There was little to separate the pair throughout the first two-thirds but an error from the Turk allowed Bautista to pass him on the run down to Rivazza 1 to lead. He ran slightly wide at the final chicane but the #54 was unable to capitalise and remained in second. From there, the reigning Champion pulled out a gap to claim his 49th win in WorldSBK, ahead of Razgatlioglu while Rea took third.
Bautista’s win puts him on 17 for the season which equals the most in a season, putting him level with Doug Polen in 1991 and Jonathan Rea in from 2018 and 2019. One more win at any point throughout the season will give him the all-time record for wins in a single campaign with 18. Second gave Razgatlioglu his 100th WorldSBK podium and his 16th consecutive rostrum finish; the joint sixth-longest all-time streak. Rea racked up his 252nd podium, while Razgatlioglu and Rea have now shared the podium 75 times together.
STRONG STARTS, DROPPING BACK: Locatelli and Bassani lead but finish off the rostrum
Locatelli’s stunning start was rewarded with fourth place although he had to work hard as he fended off Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) in the closing stages. Rinaldi was the quicker rider and the gap between them on Lap 19, the final lap, was just over a second but the Yamaha rider was able to hold on lead a quartet of Italians inside the top seven. After his podium at Donington last time out, Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) headed into his second home round full of confidence and he scored sixth, 2.6s down on Rinaldi ahead. Bassani dropped down the order to finish seventh, having to fight hard to keep that position.
FIERCE FIGHTS: Baz finishes strongly
French rider Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) was the top BMW rider as he took eighth, but he was very close to finishing one place higher. He put pressure on the Independent Ducati directly ahead of him but was unable to make the move before he had to defend from Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK). The Brit had to settle for ninth but finished just over three tenths down from the two-time race winner, while Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) completed the top ten.
UNPREDICTABLE ACTION: the battle for 11th is a late-race thriller
Rookie Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) put in a strong charge to take 11th after a fierce fight with four riders. The Australian battled with Xavi Vierge (Team HRC), Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) and Leon Haslam (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) to take 11th with the Honda rider in 12th; Vierge was forced to start from the back of the grid due to a tyre pressure limits infringement, but he was up to 17th in the early stages before claiming P12. American star Gerloff was 13th with stand-in BMW rider Haslam right behind. Bradley Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) started from the second row and secured a point as he claimed 15th.
Tito Rabat (Barni Spark Racing Team) took 16th place, 19 seconds down on Ray ahead of him, as he fended off two Italians. Wildcard Gabriele Ruiu (Bmax Racing), who started from the pit lane, was 17th and only 0.181s down on the Moto2™ World Champion while Roberto Tamburini (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) was 18th and last of the classified riders.
HOUSEKEEPING: retirements from Race 1
Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) crashed out of his home race on Lap 3 when he went down at Turn 2, while German rider Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) retired just shy of the halfway mark of the 19-lap race. Czech rider Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO) retired shortly after Oettl while Eric Granado (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) crashed at Turn 18 on Lap 13. Spanish duo Isaac Vinales (TPR by Team Pedercini Racing) and Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) also did not complete the race. Swiss rookie Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) brought his Yamaha YZF-R1 machine into the pits on Lap 17 to retire.
The top six from WorldSBK Race 1:
1. Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
2. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +3.672s
3. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +7.847s
4. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +13.543s
5. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +15.898s
6. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) +18.551s
Fastest Lap: Alvaro Bautista (Ducati), 1’47.065s
- From WorldSBK.com