Axel Bassani has shrugged off Michael Ruben Rinaldi's stinging criticism of him following the collision the led to the latter being dumped out of the opening Catalunya WorldSBK race over the weekend.
Regarded as arguably Rinaldi's biggest rival for his prized seat alongside Alvaro Bautista in the Aruba.it Ducati team for the 2024 WorldSBK season, Bassani was caught up in two skirmishes with his countryman over the course of the race.
Making the most of an elevated grid position at the restart following a red flag, Bassani was battling with Rinaldi over second position when a firm pass by the latter at Turn 12 forced the latter to sit up in avoidance.
Bassani proceeded to return the favour at Turn 11, but light contact between the two would force Rinaldi down and out of the race.
Prompting Rinaldi to accuse Bassani of deliberately making a 'dirty move', the younger of the two - who was punished with a long-lap penalty that demoted him to seventh - was alarmed at the reaction to what he considered an ordinary racing incident.
“I think it’s a normal race,” said the ever calm and smilingly sanguine Bassani. “He (Rinaldi) tried to overtake me and touch me, and after I tried to take him for stay in second position because I think we had the potential for stay on the podium today.
"But we touched, and I think it’s a normal incident of a race. Sometimes happens. So, I had my penalty. I do my penalty, my long lap, and I finished in seventh position. So, I think it’s okay.”
“Yeah, I saw the possibility to do an overtake, so I go in,” stated Bassani. “After, I completed the lean of the bike, it was impossible for me to see Michael. He tried to close the door to defend his position and we touched. I think it’s a normal contact of racing. I repeat, I had my penalty, I do, so that’s it.”
With Rinaldi taking particular exception to Bassani not coming to find him after the race to apologise, Bassani shrugged off his his words, saying there was nothing to excuse.
“Why? Why excuse? He did the same overtake in Turn Three. This is racing, I think. Every rider tries to put 100% every lap and defend his position. He tried to defend his position in Turn Three, and I tried to defend my position in Turn Ten. So I think it’s a normal contact of race.
"I don’t have a problem with Michael. For me, he’s a normal rider like the rest of the grid. I don’t have a problem with him. If he has a problem with me, he can come to my box and we can speak. No problem.”
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Additional reporting by Ollie Barstow