From the depths of despair on Saturday morning to the heights of the podium on Sunday morning, Alvaro Bautista’s persistence pays off…
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has seen yet another twist in one of the most unpredictable Championship seasons yet but besides the overall standings, there was plenty to cheer about elsewhere on the grid. Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) returned Honda to the podium with a superb Tissot Superpole Race, seeing him come in third place in the race that he crashed out of the lead of just 12 months ago.
Bautista’s Sunday got off to a fine start in Warm-Up, with the Spaniard popping up into fifth place with a final flying lap, hailing new-found grip in comparison to Saturday, in which he languished in 16th in Tissot Superpole. However, the Tissot Superpole Race saw him storm through the field from the sixth row to seventh in just three laps, before a Red Flag was shown for a crash between Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) and Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) at Turns 11 and 12. On the restart, Bautista was right at the sharp end and ran inside the top two positions on the opening lap, before beating Alex Lowes to third in the closing stages.
Speaking about his Sunday, Bautista said: “I think our performance has been very positive this weekend, especially today. On Friday, I struggled a lot with the grip, I didn’t find grip with the bike on the front and rear, so it was very difficult for me to ride. In the Superpole yesterday, I struggled a lot with the soft tyres. Today, in the morning, we didn’t change anything with the bike, and it felt like another bike. The grip stayed there, so I could use it to go fast, to push and I was happy because I enjoy racing the bike. We had our normal problems, but no more. In the Superpole Rae, I knew it would be difficult because it’s just a few laps and I started from the very back of the grid. I had a good start, I gained some position, and I was seventh at the end of three laps. Then there was a Red Flag and we had to restart. I had another good start and I just tried to keep my concentration and focus and finish the race, and I did in third place.”
In Race 2, Bautista was once again in the leading group as he went from the inside of the front row. Battling for the podium in the closing stages, Bautista was just 0.385s from second place, which was taken by Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and 0.208s from third, taken by Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati). Bautista’s strong weekend in Barcelona sees him consolidate a top ten placing in the standings, moving onto 142 points.
Continuing to talk about his rostrum return, Bautista dedicated the result to his team, saying: “I think everybody’s working really hard. Maybe after last season, everybody expected a bit more performance, but the reality is we didn’t take a really big step especially in the first half of this season. We had some riders in the fight because maybe the front guys are as fast as last year, but there are more riders in between. I think, race by race, especially the last three or four races, we have a really good base setup on the bike that allows us to start every weekend, more or less, with the same feedback as we end the weekend before. I think this result is for HRC, for all the team, because we deserved something like this.”
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