The 38-year-old from Talavera de la Reina corrected his Saturday falls to live up to the pre-round billing with a solid Sunday double
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) picked himself up and dusted himself down – twice – to bring the home crowd to the feet with a fine return to winning ways on Sunday. It started by leaving it late in the Tissot Superpole Race at MotorLand Aragon, hitting the front on the approach to the final corner, whilst his pre-round form of being able to lead from the front and put time into his rivals came true in Race 2, with a strong Sunday double to keep Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) at arm’s length in their title fight.
SUNDAY ROAST: awesome Alcaniz to overcome Race 1 blunder
Sunday morning saw Bautista beaten on the short shoot to Turn 1, with Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) leading from the Spaniard, whilst Toprak Razgatlioglu was all over the Ducati’s rear wheel. It was like scenes from 2022; the titanic trio back to their best, with the riders and their bikes working well at different points of the circuit. Rea was able to continuously pull a gap of up to eight tenths before the back straight, although Bautista would haul himself back into contention by Turn 16. However, on Lap 7, Bautista hit the front briefly at Turn 1 but the six-time World Champion was resilient and pushed the Spaniard out at Turn 2, allowing for Razgatlioglu to pounce at Turn 3. On the final lap, Bautista responded on Toprak at Turn 4 with a bold move, whilst at the front, it looked like Rea had it in the bag until going wide at Turn 12, allowing the Ducati into position to fly by on the straight, holding on through the final two corners to take victory.
In Race 2, the Championship got the holeshot from his hard-earnt pole position following his Superpole Race victory, with rivals Rea and Razgatlioglu close behind. Rea did lead at Turn 4, whilst Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) also got into P2 at Turn 6, before he went on to take the lead briefly at Turn 1, pushing Rea wide and allowing Bautista into P2. Bautista found his way through to the lead at Turn 4 on Locatelli before easing clear, setting consistent lap times to take a second victory.
HIS OWN WORDS: Bautista happy with Sunday fight back, wary of Razgatlioglu threat
Speaking about his Sunday double, Bautista was elated: “I am so happy to get two victories on Sunday. Since Misano, I haven’t won two races on a Sunday! I’m happy, especially today, because I can reset from yesterday. We started from zero from the feeling I had and in Warm Up, I felt very good. In the Superpole Race, it was amazing with Jonathan, Toprak and myself. We did a great race with three different rear tyres, so the level was really high. I felt good as the pace was so fast and, in the end, I was able to overtake them both on the last lap. I thought I could fight for the victory and I just tried, without thinking about anything else. I’m happy as I did my best.”
Talking about Race 2, Bautista continued: “In the afternoon, the conditions were very critical as it was very hot and it wasn’t easy for the tyres – life or the performance. From the first lap, I felt the rear spinning a lot and I didn’t have good traction. I tried to not push the rear a lot and I forced the front more and after mid-race, I felt a drop on the front and in many corners, I felt like it was closing. Fortunately, I had a good gap and I could manage the distance. In two very different races, we were able to be competitive. It’s not been an easy weekend but it’s been good for the feeling of the bike and we have to keep fighting; we can’t make more mistakes. This weekend, I’ve learnt that even if a track fits well to me and the bike, you can’t be confident 100%. In the races, everything is possible and anything can happen. I think we need more humility and try to stay focussed and not to relax.”
THE MATHS FOR TITLE NUMBER TWO: it sounds easy, looks easy, but this is WorldSBK
Bautista needs a points swing of 15 at the Pirelli Portuguese Round if he is to be crowned World Champion for a second consecutive season, although he’s won there just twice for Ducati – 2019’s Race 2 and the Race 2 from last year. However, the form guide suggests Razgatlioglu will keep taking profit of mistakes and dramas for the #1, with the deficit coming down from a high of 98 points after Imola’s Race 1 to a current 47. Six races remain in the 2023 season; mathematically, Bautista can finish third in every race if Razgatlioglu wins them all – although the difference would be just a single point despite a hair-raising start to his title defence.
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