The pair were on track together during Free Practice 1 in Barcelona with both giving their thoughts after the day’s action concluded
Just two weeks on from their collision at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) shared the same piece of tarmac at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship gathered for the Catalunya Round. During Free Practice 1, the pair were nose-to-tail as they looked to gather as much data as possible ahead of racing in Barcelona.
With just over 34 minutes remaining in the session, the pair were closing in on Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team) through the final two corners, with Bautista able to get by but Rea having to wait until the exit of Turn 14. Although the on-gap track between Bautista and Rea grew at this point, Rea was able to close it up again through sectors one and two. As the pair approach Turn 10, Rea went up the inside of Bautista to make a move but ran wide with the Championship leader getting back ahead.
After Friday’s action concluded, both gave their thoughts on the on-track battle. Rea said: “I saw quite a lot. I was able to understand where he was strong, where he was a little bit weaker and tried to relay that to my team as well to improve our bike. It’s clear that both him and Ducati, right now, are at a really good level. I was quite pleasantly surprised that we were strong in some areas too. It wasn’t planned, we exited the pitlane together. I was thankful for those laps because we learned some things. To be honest, I was quite nervous! I didn’t want to touch him and deal with the consequences again. I made a pass in T10 and instead to avoid any problems, I went a little bit wide, gave him the space and came back to pit lane. It was quite nice to show him a wheel, show him we can fight.”
Bautista joked about the ‘battle’, saying: “At Magny-Cours we did only one lap, so here we try to continue the race in the same way like that! It was funny because I knew I had many riders behind me. Sincerely, I didn’t know which riders they were. It was like learning the track behind me. At one moment, I saw Jonathan pass me in the braking area of Turn 10 but he was all crazy, ‘I want to pass!’, but the front tyre was one side, the rear the other… In the end, it was just a game. It was funny because after that, when I saw that he was behind me, the next lap I did my best lap! I wanted to show him the real secrets of the track.”
Bautista finished in fourth place in the combined classification after Friday’s running as he looks for glory on home soil and to extend his Championship lead, while Rea was fifth and only 0.040s behind his title rival. Both will be looking to take victories and podiums in Spain with Bautista celebrating his home round and Rea celebrating his team’s home round, the action in Barcelona is sure to be fierce with just five rounds left in 2022.
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