Spain’s Alvaro Bautista (right) leads Great Britain’s Jonathan Rea Britain during the Tissot Superpole race. Picture: AAP
Spain’s Alvaro Bautista (right) leads Great Britain’s Jonathan Rea Britain during the Tissot Superpole race. Picture: AAP

Bautista clinches hat-trick, champ Rea second

ALVARO Bautista clinched an opening hat-trick of triumphs at Phillip Island on his World Superbike debut for Ducati, charging to victory in the final race.

The former MotoGP racer cruised to the line ahead of the Kawasaki Racing Team duo of defending champion Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam.

They were followed by a trio of Yamahas - Michael van der Mark, Alex Lowes and 2018 dual winner Marco Melandri.

Bautista started from pole and was never headed in the 22-lap contest around the 12 curves of the island track.

He was leading by about 18 seconds in the final turn but coasted to the line to win 12 seconds ahead of Rea.

The Ducati star emerges from the opening round with a 13-point lead over Rea, whose attempt to secure five straight world titles is being seriously challenged.

Fellow Ducati rider and 2018 runner-up Chaz Davies improved after a difficult week. The Brit finished seventh after starting from 14th on the grid.

Alvaro Bautista and Jonathan Rea lead the field. Picture: Getty
Alvaro Bautista and Jonathan Rea lead the field. Picture: Getty

Earlier, Bautista won the first-ever midday 10-lap sprint ahead of Rea. The Spaniard edged ahead on lap 6 and controlled the race till the chequered flag.

Rea tried to chase Bautista down on the factory Kawasaki and in doing so set a new lap race record of 1 min 30.075 sec in perfect sunny conditions at the 4.4km coastal track.

Rea's teammate Leon Haslam finished third, ahead of a posse of four Yamahas - Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark, Marco Melandri and Sandro Cortese.

Bautista's Ducati garage partner Chaz Davies was again off the pace, finishing 10th.