Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) made MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship history in Race 1 of the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round by becoming the first rider to win on their WorldSBK debut since teammate Alvaro Bautista in 2019. He led an all-Italian podium, the first time this has happened since Race 1 at Misano in 1993, with Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) and Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) completing the rostrum; the latter marking his return to competitive action by leading the race and taking third place.
IANNONE LEADS ON COMEBACK: stunning start from lights out
Iannone got the holeshot to lead in his first race back after four years away from any competition, proving ‘The Maniac’ still has what it takes to compete at the front. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was able to challenge the Ducati star an took the lead with an incredible move through the Hayshed to move into the lead, which he held before Iannone come through into Turn 1 on Lap 2.
There was a several rider group fighting for the top positions, including Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) who surged from ninth to be in the top three although a crash at Turn 10 on Lap 4 dropped him out of victory contention. The lead group exchanged positions consistently until the pit stop phase between Laps 9 and 11, with the order shaken out a bit following the stops to change the rear tyres.
BULEGA’S DREAM COMES TRUE: a debut win as Iannone takes the podium
The first leaders came in on Lap 9, with Iannone, Bulega, Lowes, Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) and Bautista all pitting. Bulega came out ahead – he was in the lead prior to the stops after passing Iannone at Turn 1 on Lap 7 – before remaining unchallenged as he claimed a stunning maiden victory on the Panigale V4 R, leading home an all-Italian podium. Locatelli battled his way from sixth into second place, as he used an alternative strategy by pitting on Lap 11, with Iannone in third after losing ground on his outlap.
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The #29 had to fight against Lowes and Razgatlioglu to claim his first podium, his first visit to the rostrum since the MotoGP™ Australian Grand Prix in 2018, finishing only two seconds down on Bulega out in front. Locatelli showed strong pace in the second half of the race to move ahead of his rivals, including passing Iannone before he took advantage of ‘The Maniac’ running wide at Turn 4 to extend his gap. Bulega became the first rider to win consecutive races in different Championships, after winning Race 2 at Jerez in WorldSSP and Race 1 at Phillip Island in WorldSBK, while only the third Italian to win on debut after Max Biaggi and Davide Tardozzi. The podium not featuring the ‘Titanic Trio’ is the first since Portimao in 2021 when Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), Scott Redding (Bonovo Action BMW) and Loris Baz shared the rostrum.
JUST MISSING OUT: Razgatlioglu P5 in first BMW race, Aegerter fights back
Despite fighting for a podium, Lowes finished the race in fourth although his pace was fast throughout the 20-lap race, finishing only four seconds away from victory. Razgatlioglu claimed fifth place although he did cross the line in P4. The 2021 Champion was given a 1.225s penalty for a Pit Intervention Time infringement while swapping his tyres, which demoted him to fifth as he finished as the lead BMW rider. Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was sixth. He started from P4 but dropped as low as 14th in the first half of the race before fighting his way back into the top six.
— WorldSBK (@WorldSBK) February 24, 2024
IN THE TOP TEN: Gerloff battles, Redding penalised, all five manufacturers in the top 10
The BMW’s pace was on display throughout with van der Mark (in seventh after the Dutchman battled his way up the grid. The #60 had been setting fastest laps throughout the first part of the race as he finished just a tenth behind Aegerter. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) was ninth ahead of Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW), who had battled forwards from the back of the grid after a difficult Tissot Superpole. His teammate, Redding, had followed him forwards but a Pit Intervention Time penalty of 2.030s dropped him behind Xavi Vierge (Team HRC). Vierge crossed the line in 11th, but Redding’s penalty promoted him into the top ten to ensure all five manufacturers were in the top ten.
POINTS DESPITE PENALTY: Bassani starts with P12, Bautista 15th after crash
Axel Bassani (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) scored points on his KRT debut despite having to complete a Long Lap Penalty after a collision with Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team). ‘El Bocia’ and Gardner came together on Lap 3 at Turn 10 as Bassani tried an ambitious overtake, with the FIM Stewards penalising the Italian with a Long Lap Penalty for the collision. He was ahead of Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), who dropped down the order after a superb start, with Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team Motocorsa Racing) in 14th. Bautista claimed a solitary point after his crash.
DISASTER FOR REA: no points for Yamaha’s new recruit
Philipp Oettl (GMT94 Yamaha) had shown incredible pace at Phillip Island both last year, and throughout the Official Test and Free Practice sessions this year, but was unable to repeat his top-five performance from last year. He came home in 16th place, ahead of Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha). The Ulsterman has struggled throughout the weekend and that continued in Race 1, with Rea finishing 38 seconds away from victory. Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was 18th ahead of PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team duo Tarran Mackenzie and Adam Norrodin, while Bradley Ray (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) was 21st and the last classified rider after he had a crash in the first half of the race.
The top six from WorldSBK Race 1, full results here:
1 Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
2. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) +2.280s
3. Andrea Iannone (Team GoEleven) +2.630s
4. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +4.728s
5. Toprak Razgatlioglu (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +5.706s
6. Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +8.333s
Fastest lap: Nicolo Bulega (Ducati), 1’28.564s – new lap record
A NEW ERA BEGINS: watch the 10-lap Tissot Superpole Race on Sunday at 13:00 Local Time (UTC+11) using the WorldSBK VideoPass!