Is Bautista still a favourite heading into 2024? "I’m not 100% and I cannot push to the limit…"

Wednesday, 31 January 2024 12:07 GMT

Off-season testing has been difficult for reigning Champion Alvaro Bautista as he looks to recover from a neck injury sustained in 2023

As the start of the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship creeps closer, one rider who appears to be on the backfoot heading to Australia is Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati). After picking up a neck injury in a testing crash at Jerez right after 2023 concluded, the #1 has been fighting his way to full fitness and, while at Jerez he felt he made a step, Day 2 at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve was a challenge for Bautista.

“NOT TOO PAINFUL, BUT ALWAYS THERE AND IT’S NOT EASY” – Bautista provides fitness update

Bautista completed 90 laps on Day 2, four more than on Day 1, with a best time of 1’40.645s on Tuesday. He was left in P15 as rookie teammate Nicolo Bulega continued to shine throughout the test, although it was revealed they were running different test programmes. Speaking at the end of Day 2, Bautista explained that, although this test was “better than Jerez”, there was still more to come as the WorldSBK paddock gets ready to descend on Australia in February to kickstart the 2024 season in style.

When asked about his test, the Spaniard said: “Basically, I can say that it has been better than Jerez but not enough. On Day 1, I felt a lot of improvement from Jerez about my physical condition, but on Tuesday, I felt a bit worse than Monday. Maybe this track is more demanding. It’s not too painful but it’s always there and it’s not easy. Also, we worked with the bike, and I think we took the setup that wasn’t the best because, at the end of the day, we saw the way we started on from Day 1, maybe I’m not 100% and I cannot push to the limit. Maybe that way wasn’t correct, but we realised at the end of the day. I’m not 100% but I think we miss something on the bike setup. A difficult two days, but now we have some time to think about the setup of the bike and try to recover a bit more for Australia.”

“I DON’T HAVE CONFIDENCE, BUT I HAVE CONFIDENCE…” – needing to find form for Australia?

With four days of testing under his belt for 2024, Bautista is in a position to talk about the start of the season and how he feels heading into it as he looks to make it three titles on the bounce on the Panigale V4 R. With outright lap time seemingly lacking at this stage – although it’s hard to make a proper comparison to his rivals due to the nature of testing – and the nerve injury in his neck still lingering, Bautista spoke about how he was feeling ahead of the Australian Round.

The 39-year-old added: “I don’t have confidence, but I have confidence. I’ll try to work as hard as possible at home, I think this is the only way. It doesn’t matter about confidence. If we work hard, it’s the only way we can arrive in better condition. Let’s see. I have to go day by day and then, when we arrive in Australia, I will see what my physical condition is like, and we’ll try to do our best.”

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