Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam showed rapid pace throughout the Portuguese Round but that pace did not translate into results in the weekend’s three races
The last European round of the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship campaign was a strong showing for Team HRC duo Leon Haslam and Alvaro Bautista, even if the Spaniard didn’t get the results his pace, at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve during the Motul Portuguese Round as Bautista crashed out from two podium battles while Haslam claimed his best result since Donington Park earlier in the year.
Honda’s pace was shown from the opening session with Bautista in seventh place, before Haslam improved in Free Practice 2 to go third in the afternoon session and fourth in the combined classification. The Honda duo were tenth and 11th in Saturday’s practice session before both were able to secure a top-six start in the Tissot Superpole session with Haslam in third and Bautista sixth.
In Race 1, Haslam was able to hold position despite a train of riders forming up behind him eventually finishing in fifth place for the best result Haslam has recorded since his fourth place at Donington Park’s Superpole Race. Bautista was able to leapfrog Haslam in Race 1 and was battling Loris Baz (Team GoEleven) for third place before the Spaniard had a high-speed crash at Turn 15 which forced him out of the race although Bautista was okay following the incident.
Bautista recorded a fifth-place finish in the Superpole Race while Haslam did not finish, but in Race 2 Bautista was once again battling Baz for third place with the pair making contact at Turn 5 on the penultimate lap of the 19-lap encounter with Bautista once again retiring from the race. Although Baz did go on to finish third, he was demoted one place after the race which promoted Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) to the podium. Haslam had another strong result from 11th on the grid to finish eighth, with both Honda riders showing great pace throughout the weekend.
Looking back on a strong weekend, Haslam said: “There have been some positives this weekend, like qualifying on the front row and then being consistent and able to fight for third in the dry. I was very disappointed with the wet race as I ran off track when Rinaldi crashed, then found the kind of pace which would have been good enough for P2 but crashed with just two laps to go. It was a real shame because I feel we deserved the podium here. In the last race, we started further back due to my earlier crash, and I really struggled to get past Rinaldi, after which my pace was again strong. In the end, the results were not what we deserved this weekend, but my pace was better in the final race particularly, so that’s the take-away I guess.”
Bautista was left to lament two potential podium-costing crashes but was still happy with the pace he was able to show during the weekend: “In the end, our performance this weekend has been really, really high especially with the SC0 that we struggled a lot with during the season. This weekend, we had to work on this. We did a really good job and on Saturday we were fighting for the podium. Unfortunately, I crashed at the last corner. On Sunday, in wet conditions, we had good performance and in Race 2, we were also fighting for the podium. I think the performance of the bike, the team and I was high this weekend. In any case, we are happy with the performance and we will try to be even better in Argentina.”
Discussing the Race 2 crash with Baz, Bautista said to the press in his media debrief: “Just exiting from the corner, he was straight to me. If you see the image, you see that exiting the corner, he was inside the kerb, over the kerb. In that corner, it’s not a corner we use the kerb for exit like, for example, Turn 14 that we cut the corner on the kerb. He was just straight to me. Even when I saw him, because I didn’t expect it because I didn’t go wide, I tried to pick up the bike, but he doesn’t care about turning. He just cared about putting me out and not losing the position. I’m very angry with this movement from Loris but at the same time we have to be happy with the performance, with the work we did. In both races, we were fighting for the podium.”
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