There was no stopping sensational World Superbike newcomer Alvaro Bautista at Phillip Island as the Spanish rider opened up a 13-point gap in the championship over Jonathan Rea following a terrific treble.
The Aruba.it Ducati rider dominated race one on Saturday to win by a huge 15 seconds on the Panigale V4 R and followed up with another victory in the first ever Superpole race, when he was pushed hard by reigning champion Rea.
However, Bautista once again left his rivals trailing in his wake in the final full-length race on Sunday as he powered clear on the Italian machine, eventually winning with over 12 seconds in hand from Kawasaki rider Rea.
The 34-year-old becomes the first rider since American John Kocinski in 1996 to win two World Superbike races during his debut weekend in the series.
Rea admitted he simply had no answer for Bautista and Ducati at the weekend.
“I’m very happy with the results at the end of the day but the classifications were a little bit disappointing,” said Rea, who is chasing a record-breaking fifth WSBK crown this year.
“During the test we were struggling a little bit and it’s not the most favourable circuit for me or our bike, but step by step we got a little bit closer and a little bit better, and I felt more comfortable – especially to push over 22 laps, which is the most challenging.
“I had no answer for Alvaro and Ducati this weekend and they have been super strong, but I feel like we picked up the pieces and to be the best of the rest, I’m very happy.”
Bautista had a clear top-speed advantage on the home straight on the Ducati but Rea feels the pendulum will swing back and forward throughout the season, with other circuits better suited to his Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
“It’s easy to see (the advantage of the Ducati) because I made a great start (in Sunday’s 22-lap race) but by the time we reached Turn 1 he was about 30 metres in front,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it’s an area where we can’t work and the difference in power right now in a straight line is a lot. We need to try our best to maximise the chassis in all the other circuits but I feel like I’m riding the bike good and I’m sure there will be certain circuits where it suits our bike a little bit better, but certainly here it has played into Ducati and Alvaro’s hands.
“But that doesn’t take anything away from them and they’ve had a faultless weekend but I feel also proud of our weekend, to be second three times and I’ve started the season better than I did last year and I can take some confidence going into Thailand.
“In the sprint race at least, I could give it a go and show some fight, so I hope to give this guy a little bit more of a challenge at the other circuits than I was able to today.”
Bautista took the lead on lap one and quickly began to edge away from Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team).
British Superbike champion Haslam, third in the Superpole race, became embroiled in a battle with team-mate Rea as the pair exchanged passes in their own personal battle for the runner-up spot.
It was Rea who came out on top by 0.2 seconds, with Haslam securing another rostrum finish in third.
Pata Yamaha riders Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes were next, with Marco Melandri rounding out the top six on the GRT Yamaha.
Chaz Davies made a big improvement on the Aruba.it Ducati to take seventh ahead of Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha), with Eugene Laverty finishing inside the top ten on the Team Go Eleven Ducati in front of Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda).
Round two of the championship will take place in Buriram, Thailand from March 15-17.