Early May here in Barcelona, and already the temperatures were scorching, nearing 30 degrees Celsius air temperature, and 50 degrees on track.
With news earlier in the week that reigning champion, Alvaro Bautista would be extending his contact with Aruba Ducati for at least another season, it all meant there would be no easing off of the gas. His rivals would need to step up the game if they had eyes on his world championship crown, or indeed stopping him in Catalunya this weekend.
Lights out then for Race 1, and it was Bautista (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by his team mate Rinaldi behind in 2nd. Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 3rd, Toprak (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) 4th, and Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) in 5th.
Next lap and with Toprak mounting pressure on his team mate Locatelli, he did eventually make the move into turn 3, moving into 4th. Redding (Rokit BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) had been penalised grid positions for irresponsible riding and had to start from 16th, although he had made a great start and was now up to 11th. Drama for Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing Movisio) who went down into turn 4, and his race was over. At the front Bautista had a gap of 0.5s to Rinaldi behind in 2nd.
Next lap and positions were as follows: 1. Bautista 2. Rinaldi 3. Rea 4. Toprak 5. Locatelli 6. Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) 7. Aegerter 8. Vierge (Honda HRC) 9. Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) 10. Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK).
Then, with 17 laps remaining, the race is red flagged due to a crash by Eric Granado (Petronas MIE Racing Honda Team) into turn 12. He was conscious as they stretchered him off the track and taken to the medical centre. The race would be restarted with 17 laps still remaining.
Lights out then for the second time, and once again it was Bautista with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by Rinaldi 2nd, Bassani 3rd, Rea 4th, Locatelli 5th, and Toprak in 6th. Drama then for Redding as he seemed to slam into the back of Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) into turn 10, both riders plunged into the gravel with bits of fairing everywhere, and their respective races were over. Meanwhile at the front, things were getting spicy between fellow Italians, Rinaldi and Bassani in the battle for 2nd, with Rea behind in 4th.
Next lap and Rinaldi barged up the inside of Bassani after the latter had briefly taken 2nd to retake the position, gloves were definitely off at this stage. As the ‘red mist’ descended, Bassani then stuffed it up the inside of Rinaldi into turn 10, although he caught the back of the Ducati in the process sending a helpless Rinaldi flying off into the gravel. Rinaldi was not at all happy, giving a sarcastic ’round of applause’ to his fellow countryman after that incident. Positions were as follows: 1. Bautista 2. Bassani 3. Rea 4. Toprak 5. Locatelli 6. Aegerter 7. Lowes 8. Vierge 9. Lecuona 10. Gardner.
With 14 laps left Bautista put in the new fastest lap, a 1:41.747, and held a gap of 1.8s to Bassani.
Next lap and Bautista extended his lead to 2.3s. Meanwhile further behind Toprak was right on the back of Rea, and you sensed a pass was coming. The Kawasaki had previously struggled in very hot conditions. Meanwhile Bassani was given a long lap penalty for his contact with Rinaldi, which he immediately took and rejoined in 5th.
With 12 laps to go Bautista had now extended his lead to 4.1s to Rea who was now in 2nd, with Toprak behind in 3rd who had a gap of 1.2s to his team mate behind in 4th, Locatelli. Meanwhile further back it was, Aegerter 6th, Lowes 7th, Vierge 8th, Gardner 9th, Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing) 10th, and Brad Ray (MotoxRacing Yamaha) 15th.
With just over half race distance covered, Bassani got back through on Locatelli into turn 10 to take 4th. Meanwhile further back there was a battle for 7th between Lecuona and Lowes. Further back again and there was a 3 way battle for 9th between Vierge 9th, Gardner 10th, and Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) 11th. The young Aussie, Gardner, then got through on Vierge to take 9th.
With 7 laps to go, Vinales crashed out into turn 10 his race was over. Meanwhile at the front and clear out in the lead, Bautista had now ramped his lead up to 8.6s, and looked comfortable, and was nearly out of sight of the chasers behind. Toprak was still right on the back of Rea, although the Kawasaki was looking much better in the hot conditions, and Rea was holding his own. Disappointment then for Lowes who went down into the downhill turn 7 losing the front end, he had been looking good up until that point. Toprak held a gap of 1.9s to Bassani behind in 4th.
With only 5 laps remaining Bautista now extended his lead to 9.5s and was making it look easy. Rea continued to hold off Toprak and held a gap of 0.3s.
Next lap and Locatelli retook 4th, getting through on Bassani. Bassani paying for his earlier fight with Rinaldi no doubt, as he was struggling with grip. Bassani was 5th, Aegerter 6th, Lecuona 7th, Vierge 8th, Gardner 9th, Gerloff 10th, with British rider Brad Ray in 14th.
With 3 laps to go, Aegerter was having a great race for a rookie, and took 5th getting through on Bassani, with a nice clean move up the inside of the Ducati. Meanwhile out of sight in the lead, Bautista was entering turn 1, as Rea and Toprak were entering the final corner onto the straight, such was his sizeable lead of 11s. Further back Petrucci was battling Gardner for 10th.
Last lap and Toprak eventually made his move on Rea down the straight and into turn 1, out braking the Kawasaki and getting his bike stopped as only Toprak can do, Rea had no answer and dropped into 3rd.
Taking his first win of the weekend, and making an ominous statement with the dominance of it, Bautista crossed the line in 1st, followed by Toprak in 2nd, Rea 3rd, Locatelli 4th, Aegerter 5th, Lecuona 6th, Bassani 7th, Vierge 8th, Gerloff 9th, Petrucci 10th.
Result top 5:
- Bautista (Aruba.it Racing Ducati)
- Razgatlioglu (Pata Prometeon Yamaha WorldSBK)
- Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
- Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha WorldSBK)
- Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorlsSBK)
Championship top 3:
- Bautista – 199 pts
- Razgatlioglu – 138
- Locatelli – 117