While it was Jonathan Rea making the pre-race headlines with a history-making 378th World Superbike start, defending Champion Álvaro Bautista wanted to get the final word in by taking the opening victory of the season.
The race at Phillip Island was an early one for UK fans, starting at 5 am, but the ‘Titanic Trio’ of Bautisa, Rea and Toprak Razgatlıoğlu put on an early morning display of excellent racing as they made up the three podium positions.
It was the Turkish rider in Razgatlıoğlu that started from pole position, followed by Bautisa and Dominique Aegerter, with Jonathan Rea on the second row in fourth.
The track was very damp and Michael van der Mark felt the full force of the Phillip Island circuit as he crashed out early in the race.
Northern Ireland’s Rea made the perfect start to the race and was running out front in the opening laps, however, later in the race he would suffer problems and said after the race he couldn’t “change gears or backshift the way I wanted”. This meant that he was overtaken on Lap 10 by Bautista after he was seen closing the throttle while upshifting.
The gap between the top two could have been so much more, but Bautista had a huge slide but managed to still pull a three-second gap between him and the six-time World Champion.
It also wasn’t an easy race for one of Rea’s former team-mate, Tom Sykes, after retiring with 18 laps to go with a technical issue.
With eight laps to go, Rea’s Kawasaki team-mate Alex Lowes crashed at turn 2, but was able to walk away.
A last-lap incident between Danilo Petrucci and Xavi Vierge resulted in a one-place penalty for Petrucci, dropping him to ninth.
Here are the top ten from the opening race of the season in Australia: