Bautista: "I'm not one of the favourites to win"

Thursday, 22 February 2024 06:49 GMT

The reigning Champion was pessimistic about his chances of winning in Australia as he starts his title defence Down Under

The 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship kicks off this weekend at the legendary Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, a venue that has been kind to Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) over the years. However, the double WorldSBK Champion is expecting this year’s Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round to be different as he comes into it on the back of a difficult off-season as well as a new surface which he believes is impacting his riding style.

THE BACKSTORY: why is Bautista playing down expectations?

Bautista has been almost unbeatable at the venue when riding a Panigale V4 R, completing a hat-trick in 2019 and currently on a run of five consecutive wins at the historic circuit from the 2022 Tissot Superpole Race onwards. He’s won eight out of nine races on the Ducati machine in Australia, with his only non-win coming in a flag-to-flag race in Race 1 in 2022, when he finished in fifth place. However, the #1 is expecting the 2024 Australian Round to be a different story.

The Spaniard comes into 2024 recovering from a neck injury sustained in testing at Jerez back in November and, while he believes he’s better now, it has impacted him throughout the winter and his testing programme. Speaking on Tuesday after the Official Test, Bautista explained that he felt “much, much better” although on Thursday, he played down his chances of winning at Phillip Island and continuing his incredible streak.

HIS THOUGHTS ON THE OPENING ROUND: “I don’t have any expectations…”

He said on Thursday: “After the Test, I felt a bit better because my physical condition improved a lot from the test before. I’m quite happy because it’s the first time this pre-season I’ve been able to feel the bike more, work more with my feeling on the bike and work more to increase my performance. I don’t have any expectations about this weekend. This is the first round of the season and it’s a long Championship. We don’t have to become crazy. We’ll try to do our best, start to recover the feeling with the bike and that’s all. No expectations, no results, and no pressure, just try to do our best and get the maximum we can.”

ADDING MORE: “I don’t have the trust or confidence that we can be at the top in Round 1”

Bautista then expanded on why he has no expectations when speaking to Servus TV shortly after, saying: “I don’t have any expectations right now, because I didn’t have the best possible pre-season due to injury. I spent basically the whole pre-season recovering my neck and, in the tests, I couldn’t work a lot with my bike. For the start of the season, I think I’m not one of the favourites to win because I have a lot of things to recover, like the feeling with the bike and I’m still a bit far from my best performance. Let’s see if I can close the gap step by step with the best Bautista and fight for good positions. Right now, I don’t have the trust or confidence that we can be at the top in Round 1.”

PLAYING RESULTS POSSIBILITIES DOWN: “We’re in a different situation to last year…”

When asked by Servus TV whether three wins was a realistic goal, Bautista replied: “Phillip Island is always good for us, but the Phillip Island from now is a bit different because there’s a different asphalt. The way you have to ride the bike is different. With a lot of grip, you can’t make the bike spin like in the past. You cannot make the bike turn. Phillip Island was really good for my riding style but, right now, my riding style isn’t working with this surface. We have a really challenging weekend ahead of us, and I’ll try to work as hard as possible to be competitive. Right now, we’re in a different situation to last year.”

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