Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista continued his dominant start to the 2019 Superbike World Championship, continuing his 100% winning record with a second successive triple win.
All three races at the Buriram circuit in Thailand delivered the same top seven finishers, with reigning world champion Jonathan Rea unsurprisingly providing the stiffest challenge to the former 125cc world champion. The Kawasaki man led all three races briefly and kept the Spaniard honest in the opening laps of all three races. The Carole Nash backed star maintained his record of finishing second in every race so far this season, but it was clear that the Kawasaki/Rea combination was no match for the speed of Bautista’s new-for-2019 Ducati Panigale V4R, which regularly proved to be more than 10kph (6mph) faster down the long Buriram straight than the factory ZX-10RR.
“Three wins, three fastest laps and Superpole means that it has been a perfect weekend for me,” declared Bautista. “We knew that it was going to be an important race because Kawasaki have won here so many times, but the whole team worked well with the bike over the weekend and it all came good. It wasn’t easy however because the Panigale V4 R is new everywhere we go and everything has to be discovered from scratch. Right from the beginning I had great confidence with the bike and only made small adjustments for the set-up we know. I just want to say thanks to my team and all the people in Ducati because they have done a fantastic job, I’m so happy! Now we have some time to rest before we go to my home race. I’m really looking forward to that and can’t wait to race at Aragón in front of my Spanish fans.”
Rea was satisfied with his weekend’s work. The world champ rode his Kawasaki as hard as he has ever ridden it in the three Thai races and was able to see off pressure from Yamaha rider Alex Lowes in Sunday’s two outings. He said: “The best we could hope for today was a brace of second places and we managed to achieve that, albeit with a lot of pressure from Alex in the final race. He kept really pushing, as he had in the sprint race, but I just had that little bit extra in the end of race three to go away. I want to thank my team for giving me a good bike this weekend and there is always some work to do to improve the package. I felt this weekend we struggled a little bit with front end stability, especially when the front was moving a little bit in that second part of the final race, in the sectors where I was strong. Behind my visor I was giving it 110% especially in those early laps to try and keep in the slipstream as long as I could. As soon as I lost that it was back to managing my own race. I am taking home 49 points again and we will try to build on that in Europe.”
Behind Lowes, PATA Yamaha team-mate Michael van der Mark finished fourth in all three races, while Leon Haslam overcame a back problem to score a trio of fifths. The Carole Nash sponsored British champion rode despite the discomfort of a trapped nerve, adding: “I can say now that I have been suffering with a trapped nerve in my back, which flared up just before I came here, and I have had to take painkilling injections. I struggled a lot this weekend and I am glad it is over, in some ways. I need some rest and then we can start again in Aragon. I had not been to Chang for four years. It was always going to be tough with just two 50-minute sessions and going straight into it. So, to get three fifth places, I am quite happy.”
GRT Yamaha teamsters Marco Melandri (Italy) and Sandro Cortese (Germany) took sixth and seventh in the races, but there was bad luck for the other British and Irish riders on the grid. Chaz Davies’ difficult start to the season continued with a crash in Saturday’s race (in which he remounted to finish 15th) and an eighth in the Sunday morning Superpole race. The Welshman had looked to be returning to his best in Sunday’s final race, but his Ducati broke down as he battled for fourth place.
Yorkshire’s Tom Sykes bagged a ninth and a 10thon the new BMW, but retired from Sunday’s main race with a clutch problem. Leon Camier was a lowly 13thin Saturday’s race but crashed out of Sunday’s Superpole race and had to sit out the afternoon session, while Eugene Laverty suffered a scary high speed crash when his brakes failed on Saturday. The Irish rider was uninjured, but his privateer team were unable to rebuild his Ducati in time for him to take part on Sunday.
The results see Bautista lead the way on a perfect 124 points after two rounds, with Rea 26 points behind, 29 ahead of Lowes.
Yamaha riders locked out the podium in an exciting World Supersport race, with Frenchman Jules Cluzel taking the win to share the championship lead with Swiss racer Randy Krummenacher, who took second from Italy’s Federico Caricasulo.
The next round takes place at Spain’s Aragon circuit on the weekend of April 6-7.