Bautista delivers at Phillip Island in Superbike opener
Alvaro Bautista has made a perfect start to his World Superbike title defence, dominating in the rain to win the opening race of the season at Phillip Island.
Turkish ace Toprak Razgatlioglu started from pole but the early stages belonged to Bautista as he immediately assumed control of the race from the Yamaha rider.
Bautista, however, relinquished his advantage to Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea on the first lap.
Rea extended his lead to 1.6 seconds but Spaniard Bautista reduced the margin to 0.7 seconds on his Ducati in the fifth lap before catching Rea off guard midway through the race.
The reigning champion was never headed again around the 4.445km circuit despite the hazardous conditions, leaving Rea 3.4 seconds back in second place to claim his sixth career win at Phillip Island.
Razgatlioglu recovered from a tardy start to finish third.
Australia's Remy Gardner endured a tough introduction to Superbike racing.
The son of motorcycling legend Wayne Gardner finished 12th on his Yamaha, the fourth-fastest independent rider across the line in the 22-lap race.
Bautista said taking a patient approach in difficult conditions was his formula for success.
"I am happy because nobody had a good feeling with this situation of the track but I just tried to keep calm and tried to understand the track," the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team gun said.
"I saw on the warm-up lap when I was behind other riders, there was a lot of water spray and I could see nothing, so when I arrived to the grid I knew I had to make a good start and have no one in front and lead to have clear vision.
"Jonathan was faster than me in the first laps, but I just tried to keep calm and after a few laps I started to see that our pace was similar."
Rae said traction was a concern for his bike in the second-half of the race.
"The more I pushed, the more issues I had," he said.
"It was a nervous race, the conditions weren't as great as they were in November. The target was a podium and I'm thankful for the points."