Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea finished second in the opening race of 2019 at Phillip Island in Australia, which was dominated by Spain’s Alvaro Bautista.
Ulsterman Rea had clinched pole position on his Kawasaki ZX-10RR with a blistering lap as he blitzed his previous record to top Superpole qualifying from team-mate Leon Haslam, with Bautista completing the front row in third on the Aruba.it Ducati V4 R.
Ex-MotoGP rider Bautista had grabbed the headlines at Phillip Island after leading the two-day test and setting the pace during FP2 and FP3.
However, few expected the 2006 125cc Grand Prix champion to win his debut World Superbike race so convincingly, as Bautista seized the lead on lap one and roared to victory by almost 15 seconds over Rea.
The official winning margin was 14.9 seconds as the Ducati signing became the first rider to win a WSBK race on his debut since Max Biaggi in 2007.
Rea said: "I am very happy with my race, to be honest. Looking from Monday through Tuesday at the tests, I thought the best target we could hope for was second, and in the end we achieved that. We arrived at the end of the race with a good tyre and that was the main target today.
"Now we have 22 laps of race data we can really understand to make some improvements tomorrow."
It was Haslam who shot into the lead off the line from Bautista and Rea, but the eventual winner had forged ahead at Turn 3 and from there, Bautista began to put daylight between himself and the chasing pack.
He had opened an advantage of eight seconds by the half-way point and continued to stretch his lead unchallenged at the front.
There was disaster for British rider Haslam on his return to the series, with the new Kawasaki signing crashing out at Turn 4 as he held second place. The British Superbike champion managed to return to the race and later finished in 15thplace.
Four-time world champion Rea took over in second place and closed out the runner-up spot by almost two seconds from Marco Melandri, who mounted a late charge on the GRT Yamaha to snatch third from Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes.
Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Puccetti Kawasaki) completed the top six, with Tom Sykes taking seventh in his first race for Shaun Muir’s BMW Motorrad team.
Runaway winner Bautista’s team-mate, Chaz Davies, was 10thbehind World Supersport champion Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha) and Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Barni Ducati V4).
Eugene Laverty finished 12thas he made his race debut on the Go Eleven Ducati V4 R.
The action continues with the new 10-lap Superpole sprint race on Sunday followed by the second 22-lap race at Phillip Island.