After his incredible 2023 success, Alvaro Bautista sat down to discuss his title win, rival Razgatlioglu and his historic season
After a stunning MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship campaign, Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was crowned World Champion for a second time. Despite the best efforts of Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK’s Toprak Razgatlioglu, the reigning Champion successfully completed the defence of his title as he wrapped up the crown in Race 1 at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto with victory, becoming the first Ducati rider to defend the title with the #1 since Carl Fogarty way back in 1999. Following his success, the Spaniard sat down for an in-depth interview that covered everything from the highs and lows of the year, celebrating with family and his rivalry with Razgatlioglu.
WINNING A SECOND CHAMPIONSHIP: “it’s very difficult to win a title, it’s even more difficult to defend it…”
Bautista switched to the #1 plate for 2023 after winning the title in 2022 and he was able to retain it this year despite Razgatlioglu pushing him all the way. It was his third world title – after the 125cc World Championship in 2006 and WorldSBK last year – but the first he could celebrate with everyone after wrapping it up in Europe. Bautista reflected on claiming a second WorldSBK crown and being able to celebrate it with his friends and family, including his wife and daughter.
An emotional Bautista explained: “To be World Champion in 2023 sounds really good, especially because it’s very difficult to win a title and it’s even more difficult to defend it. At the beginning of the season, I chose to use the #1 because I felt strong enough to defend the title with it. Defending the #1 on the bike is always really nice and it’s a pleasure for me to be part of the history. My previous Championships were won in Australia in 125cc in 2006 and last year in Indonesia. I enjoyed the moment a lot with the team, but to win at Jerez was amazing. I could share all these incredible moments with my friends and family. It was a dream come true to have the chance to celebrate the Championship with everyone. I was really happy to share the Championship with my daughters. Every time they see a heart, they say ‘a heart like daddy’ so my first thought was to do the heart sign for them. They celebrated with me, and it was amazing.”
15 WINS IN 16 RACES: “the start of the season was unbelievable!”
Bautista had the best ever start to a WorldSBK campaign with 15 wins in the first 16 races, winning every race he finished but crashing out of the Tissot Superpole Race at Mandalika. A hat-trick in Australia set the tone for the first half of his season, with Bautista only defeated on the track for the first time at the Donington Park Superpole Race, when the #54 took his second win of the season as he started to put the pressure on.
On the first half of the season, Bautista explained: “For me, the most important race was the first one in Australia. It started to rain before the race. I think many people thought that if it was dry, I would’ve been too fast and won but in wet conditions, they said, ‘I have a chance to beat Alvaro’. For me to win that race was really important and a bigger sign to say that I’m here, it doesn’t matter about the conditions or situation, I’m here to win. The start of the season was unbelievable. We won 15 races from 16, so it was really, really impressive. I can’t believe it. We had the references from last season so, every weekend, we started with a really good base. From there, we started to build up the performance in all races, all circuits, and all conditions. It was so nice to win so many races but, sometimes, when you win a lot of races you can come into a relaxed feeling, and it is not so good.”
COSTLY CRASHES? Imola and Aragon tumbles explained…
The second half of the campaign featured some incredible fights between the top two in the Championship, but Bautista stayed ahead in the standings thanks to his results in the first six rounds. There were crashes at Imola and two at Aragon which allowed the Turkish star to close the gap substantially, which, combined with on-track results meant the title fight would go on to the final round.
Bautista reflected on these mistakes, saying: “From Imola, I learnt a lot. Maybe I had more tension than normal. I don’t know if it was because the weather was too hot or the track conditions. I think I crashed because of that. I didn’t have a good appreciation of the reality and maybe, in that corner, I touched the inside kerb and then I crashed. It was my mistake but fortunately I learnt from it. Aragon was a bit different from Imola. In that crash, I was too confident. I had a bit of a gap to second and maybe I was too relaxed. The second one was because I tried to gain two positions in one corner. I could expect that crash because I was over the limit.”
FIGHTING WITH RAZGATLIOGLU: “his performance was unbelievable!”
One of the big talking points towards the end of 2023 was Razgatlioglu and Bautista’s stunning fights, most notably at Portimao and Jerez, both of which featured more than 30 passes for the lead between the two. After the season ended, the Spaniard was full of praise for his rival’s showing throughout the year as Razgatlioglu took the Championship battle to Jerez despite the double Champion’s record-breaking season.
Lavishing praise on Razgatlioglu, the 39-year-old said: “My fight for the Championship with Toprak this season has been difficult, especially in the second half of the season. Toprak was very strong. He never made mistakes. I had a record of victories this season but, even with this, he kept the title alive until the last round. That means his performance was unbelievable. When you fight with him for the Championship, you can’t say ‘okay, today I’m second, I get some points’ because he’s always there. For that, I had to do the whole season by attacking. Doing my best, never relaxing and always on the limit. Portimao, especially Race 2, I said to everybody that I didn’t want to think about the Championship, I just wanted to fight until the end and get the maximum. For me, it was easy just to stay second and not risk anything. It is not my mindset. When you win and your rivals have the talent that Razgatlioglu and Rea have, it’s more important to win like this. I’m so proud of how I could manage the situation and the races.”
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