The reigning Champion saw his Championship lead slashed from 57 points to 37 after he retired from Race 1 following two crashes
When we touched down at MotorLand Aragon for the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s tenth round, all the talk was about damage limitation for Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), as it was Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was the favourite for success. However, Saturday and Race 1 couldn’t have been any different as we saw one of the biggest swings of the WorldSBK pendulum this year.
Crashing out without pressure from the lead, Bautista’s Championship lead was handed another massive blow. Just when he'd done all the recovery work to at least come away with a point or two, he crashed again on the last lap. Whilst he laughed it off in the garage, the reigning World Champion and Championship leader will have serious work to do as the momentum from the first half of the year continues to wear off and move to the blue corner and Razgatlioglu – even at a circuit where they weren’t expected to lay a glove on him.
Talking about his Race 1 crashes, Bautista – now with a Championship lead of just 37 compared to 57 before the round and a high of 98 after Race 1 at Imola – shared his thoughts: “I can’t say it’s a happy day, but these things are part of the game and can happen. It was a pity. It was 100% my mistake. I just threw away a race that I was enjoying a lot. The feeling with the bike was good and I was feeling good. I was pushing a lot. I just lost the front a little bit more than other laps in that corner and I couldn’t save the crash. This is racing and it can happen. Last time, we had a problem with the motorbike. This time, I made a mistake. We have to reset to understand why I crashed. In any case, I’m sorry for my team because they worked really hard and also Ducati and the sponsors. It’s part of the game. We know we are competitive and fast so we just have to not make more mistakes. I cannot believe that, at 38 years old, I can make this kind of mistake, but it’s part of racing. The important thing is to learn and try to be a better rider tomorrow.”
Comparisons are starting to be drawn to Bautista’s 2019 season; whilst the big swings in points haven’t been entirely down to him, crashes at Imola in Race 2 and now at Aragon in Race 1 have been the headline grabbers. In Most’s Race 1, a flag-to-flag thriller, a problem changing the front tyre cost him 18 seconds and any chance of a big points haul, whilst a technical problem in Race 1 at Magny-Cours saw him stop, restart and recover to P10. Taking out teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi – who won Race 1 to grab points from Razgatlioglu at Aragon – ended any chance of victory in the Superpole Race in France, meaning little by little, the points gap has been coming down.
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