Alvaro Bautista has retained his perfect start to the 2019 World Superbike championship by winning the opening race at Thailand after seeing off an aggressive early charge from Jonathan Rea.

Rea dived into the lead on the opening lap ahead of pole-sitter Bautista but the Aruba.it Racing Ducati kept pace with the reigning World Superbike champion over the opening laps.

On Lap 3 at the end of the main straight Bautista looked to power past but with Rea stronger under braking the Kawasaki rider was able to move back ahead on the switchback.

Bautista, possibly not expecting Rea to cut back up the inside, clashed fairings with Rea which forced him to ease off which enabled Alex Lowes to also sneak past for second place.

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Bautista quickly regained his composure and reclaimed second from Lowes at the start of Lap 4, diving up the inside at Turn 1, and gave chase to Rea.

With a series of fastest laps, the Spanish rider bridged the gap to take the lead at the hairpin on Lap 8 – this time avoiding Rea – before producing a blistering race pace to power clear.

Bautista secured his fourth consecutive win with a comfortable eight-second margin to maintain his 100% record at the start of the 2019 World Superbike championship.

With Rea having to settle for second, Pata Yamaha’s Lowes saw off team-mate Michael van der Mark to take the final rostrum spot.

Leon Haslam won a race-long battle with GRT Yamaha’s Marco Melandri for fifth place, while further back Sandro Cortese finished seventh and Michael Ruben Rinaldi produced an impressive charge up the field to take eight place for Barni Ducati.

Chaz Davies slid off his factory Ducati at the hairpin on Lap 8, remounting to finish 15th place, while Go Eleven Ducati’s Eugene Laverty has to jump off his V4 R due to a suspected technical issue at the final corner on Lap 3.

Tom Sykes enjoyed a brilliant first lap to climb to third place but with his BMW lacking top-end speed he dropped down to ninth place while Toprak Razgatlioglu led home the customer Kawasaki fight in 10th with Jordi Torres 11th and Lenadro Mercado 12th.

Leon Camier led the Moriwaki-Althea Honda charge in 13th place, as team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari failed to finish, with Markus Reiterberger (BMW) and Davies rounding out the points places.

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