The final race of the Australian Round in the opening meeting of the 2019 WSBK Championship went the way of Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista, who completed a dream WSBK debut.
Initially taking the lead at Turn 1, Bautista started putting time into kawasaki’s Leon Haslam, who had managed to pass team-mate Jonathan Rea at Turn 4. Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha) also made a fast start and was fourth whilst Michael Ruben Rinaldi escalated from eighth on the grid into fifth, with Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha) remaining sixth.
At Turn One on lap two, Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) made a brief appearance into sixth, passing Melandri, only for the Italian to repay the compliment. Back in the fight for second position, Haslam began to pull away from Rea, the reigning champion not having things his own way.
Marco Melandri got his way ahead of van der Mark and immediately set about closing down the Kawasaki pairing of Haslam and Rea. Further up the road, Bautista was building his own gap, setting the fastest lap to confirm his relentless pace. The gap between the two Kawasakis was now at 0.5s, with Haslam seemingly able to put distance between Rea. Behind Melandri and van der Mark, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha) was back into sixth.
Further down the order, Ducati’s Chaz Davies was making good progress from 16th on the grid and was now ninth, almost passing Laverty at Turn 10.
Behind the squabbling Kawasaki riders, the Yamaha riders of Melandri and van der Mark decided to have their own fight, passing and re-passing, hindering their chances of taking the fight to Rea and Haslam, less than half-a-second up the road at times. Van der Mark was up to fourth at Turn Four with four laps to go, although Melandri got back ahead at Turn 10.
At the front, Bautista was in a league of his own, slowing down considerably as he cruised past the line to take the chequered flag. Rea took second place ahead of Haslam, while van der Mark finished fourth ahead of teammate Alex Lowes, who put in a stunning late charge to demote Marco Melandri to sixth. Chaz Davies finished in seventh place, with reigning WSS Champion Sandro Cortese completing the top eight. Eugene Laverty took ninth place and his joint-best finish of the weekend, with Leon Camier rounding out the top ten.