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Bautista fastest at two-day Aussie WorldSBK test ahead of round 1 this weekend at the Island

The two-day Phillip Island WorldSBK test has wrapped up with Alvaro Bautista continuing his winning form from last year stamping his authority on the rest of the field with the fastest combined time of the test.

The opening day of the official pre-season ‘all-outer’ tests at Phillip Island in Australia, before the season starts for real this coming weekend, was constantly interrupted by red flags, for falls and often wildlife straying onto the circuit.

These inconveniences could not stop Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon) from recovering from a steady start, and then a crash, to take the fastest day one lap time of 1’30.674. His team-mate Andrea Locatelli had been the fastest rider after the first session but would end his day fifth, not improving on his morning time in the sunny afternoon.

The last red flag interruption of the first day came with ten minutes to go in the final session, but those last few moments allowed Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba Ducati) to move into second place overall, while team-mate Alvaro Bautista went third.

Jonathan Rea (KRT) was finally fourth, 0.215 seconds from Razgatlioglu. Both Rea and Bautista had small crashes at T4 today.

With Locatelli fifth, the top independent rider was Philipp Öttl (Go Eleven Ducati) in sixth place, in a 2023 bike with a 2022 engine, with the latest version due to go in for day 2.

Remy Gardner (GRT Yamaha) placed seventh on day one at his home circuit, with the top BMW rider being America’s Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) in eighth place.

The top ten was completed by rookie Dominique Aegerter (GRT Yamaha) with Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad) tenth. Iker Lecuona was top Honda HRC rider, in 11th place.

Everyone’s best-laid testing plans were scuppered because of delivery delays of the latest Pirelli tyres, which were expected to arrive on the track at the end of the second day of testing. The tyres the teams do have had to be carefully utilised on day one, to make sure they had enough for both days.

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Nicolo Bulega (Aruba Ducati) was the quickest rider on day one of the official WorldSSP tests at PI, followed by Ten Kate Yamaha’s Stefano Manzi. Local rider Oli Bayliss (D34G Ducati) was an impressive third, followed by early faller Federico Caricasulo (Althea Ducati) who was unhurt. Can Öncü (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was fifth and his former team-mate, Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Ducati) sixth.

Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) stamped his authority on the two-day tests that will soon give way to the first round of the WorldSBK championship at Phillip Island in Australia. The reigning World Champion was only narrowly ahead of the second-best-placed rider, Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK Team), but his race pace was so strong and consistent that some of his rivals had already said he will be on a different planet come the races themselves.

The third fastest rider was the evidently improved Michael Ruben Rinaldi ( Racing – Ducati), ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK Team). The Turkish rider was still working hard on his machine set-up on the final pre-season track sessions, but everyone expects him to show strongly in the races, including Bautista.

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), with an uprated Ninja ZX-10RR to utilise, but a not a great deal of extra engine power, was fifth and yet still looking to fight for podiums come race weekend.

Strong rookie rider and two-time WorldSSP champion Dominique Aegerter (GRT Yamaha) was sixth, ahead of another strong German-speaking Independent rider, Philipp Öttl (Team GoEleven Ducati).

Iker Lecuona (HRC Honda) was a disappointed eighth fastest, and top Honda rider, saying that his bike did not feel confidence-inspiring as soon as they got on track at PI.

2023 rookie Remy Gardner (GRT Yamaha) was a home-town ninth, one place up on regular rider Axel Bassani (MotoCorsa Racing Ducati). Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Ducati) was knocked off by Bassani on the final day, wrecking the Barni bike’s swingarm. Petrucci escaped with a painful impact on his pelvis, but no serious injury.

Michael van der Mark (ROKit BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was 12th and thus the top BMW rider, leading Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW), Scott Redding (ROKit BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), and in 15th place overall, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team).

Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW), Xavi Vierge (HRC Honda), Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha), Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) and Oliver König (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) completed the top 20 riders.

Hafizh Syahrin Bin Abdullah (MIE Racing Honda Team) and Eric Granado (MIE Racing Honda Team) were the final riders in the test rankings.

Bautista said of his hard-working test experiences on a modified Panigale V4R for 2023, “I think from the first day with this bike I felt good. We didn’t have to make big changes on the bike, just small details. Today we were more focused on tyres, and to get the maximum feeling with the tyres. I did many, many laps at this test. Yesterday 88 and today I think I did 80.”

All the riders had limited levels of tyres to use at this test, after one of Pirelli’s shipping containers got delayed, but Bautista actually said he preferred it that way, as it made him work on used tyres more than any normal test. “For me, I prefer this because you can work more specifically for the race and less than the time attack.”

The fastest rider on day one of the WorldSSP test was Nicolo Bulega (Aruba Ducati) and again he topped the times on day two of the WorldSSP tests. Stefano Manzi (Ten Kate Yamaha) was 0.446 seconds behind in second place and Can Öncü (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) ended up third. Those three are most people’s pick of potential World Champions, but anything can happen in WorldSSP.

Federico Caricasulo (Althea Ducati) continued his strong form in fourth place, from yet another Ducati rider, Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Ducati). Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was sixth and Oli Bayliss (D34G Ducati) seventh. Even with Niki Tuuli (Dynavolt Triumph) eighth, there were five Ducatis inside the top seven places.

Recent Moto3 race winner but WorldSSP rookie John McPhee (Vince64 by Puccetti Racing) was 18th despite suffering from a nasty intestinal infection.

The clearly not-ready MIE-MS Racing Honda Team, featuring Adam Norrodin and Taz Mackenzie were the final two riders in the 22-strong entry.

Report Gordon Ritchie

Images GnG & PV