The championship leader wasn’t the dominant force in the UK, so what could be the reason?
Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) has been championship leader from the get-go Down Under at Phillip Island, but now, as the season unfolds, his championship lead is unravelling. Donington Park is a circuit at which he hasn’t visited since his 250cc World Championship days and could well be a key round in his championship charge. A steady opening day saw him incrementally improve but only into sixth place.
Nearly three tenths off, it has been far from an easy start to his Prosecco DOC UK Round event. Bautista, who has won at the venue in his 125cc World Championship season in 2006, will look to try and rebuild his lead over reigning four-time WorldSBK champion, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who has whittled it down from 61 points to 16 in just four races.
Speaking at the conclusion of day one at Donington Park, Bautista said: “The memories I have at this track are much different! In any case, I am happy; in the morning, I use the time to understand the track and get some reference with the Superbike and in the end, I can more-or-less understand the track. Then, in the afternoon, we try to improve the set-up of the bike because, in the morning, I struggled a little bit to make the bike turn. I think we found something that gave me a good feeling.”
It was a far from convincing first day at a circuit of which he hasn’t visited since 2009, as he languished outside of the top ten after FP1. But, his aforementioned improvements look to have put the 34-year-old Spaniard back in contention for the remainder of the weekend, which in turn promises to be vital for the championship.
“I think we can improve our reference, our lap times and our pace tomorrow. Right now, a lot of riders are making good pace, so the race will be a good fight with them. We will try to make a good set-up in the morning and then try to stay at the front during Race 1. For sure, here at Donington Park, there will be a lot of British riders who want to win, and tomorrow may be a different story for me, but we will try to do our best and I am still confident of that!”
Ducati’s record at Donington has an illustrious history, with 17 wins and 15 pole positions, but the last win for the Italian manufacturer was back in 2011, with Carlos Checa. With just five podiums from the last ten races at Donington Park – with none scored last year, too – Ducati may not be as dominant as they looked in the opening rounds of 2019.
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