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First defeat and costly crash but Alvaro Bautista still well covered after Imola WorldSBK blip

Gold & Goose
Alvaro Bautista, Aruba.it Racing, Ducati Panigale V4 R, 2023 WorldSBK, Imola, portrait [credit - Gold & Goose]

Runaway WorldSBK Championship leader Alvaro Bautista was able to look at the funny side of making his first race day mistake of an otherwise almost flawless 2023 season as his unbroken record of feature race wins came to an abrupt end.

While a win and a second place still represents a strong haul for Bautista, it’s a measure of his dominance in 2023 that his defeat by Toprak Razgatlioglu in the Superpole Race and his crash at the first corner in Race 2 is, relatively speaking, a bad weekend by comparison.

Though not his first DNF of the year, whereas his first came during the Superpole Race at Mandalika when he crashed after hitting dust offline while battling with Jonathan Rea, this came very unexpectedly moments after getting the hole-shot into Tamburello.


Reasoning that he’d clipped the white line on the inside as he rounded the right-hand turn of the complex, Bautista admits it isn’t clear why he fell there and then, but regards it as a warning for him to consider his approach to the start of races in future.

“We decided to make the race shorter, so I made it even shorter!”

“Joking aside, I made a mistake. I had a good start and did a good line, but I touched the inside white line and maybe some laps were fine [when I did that], but maybe on the first lap the tyre wasn’t 100%. Next time I have to be more careful. 

>>> 2023 WorldSBK Championship Standings <<<

In a year that has seen Bautista command with such dominance that - even with five rounds and 15 races still to go - he stands on the cusp of breaking the record for most wins in a season, he was pushed harder at Imola than at any other venue this year.

Victory in race one came after eventually breaking clear of Toprak Razgatlioglu following a spirited battle between the two, but Bautista had to settle for second best in the Superpole Race after the Turk produced an inspired performance.

With Razgatlioglu reeling the Ducati man in to plant a pass on him with two laps remaining, it is the first time Bautista has lost a victory by being overhauled by a rival this year.

“[The crash is] a shame, we were competitive. We had a nice battle with Toprak and I felt that this weekend at the end we were stronger than we expected, so I have to be positive and try to learn about the mistakes.”


Despite losing 28 points from his lead in the overall standings, with 70 points still in hand over Razgatlioglu, Bautista remains a well clear of danger in the title race, while his 18th win of the season in Race 1 means he needs just one more trip to the top of the podium to exceed Doug Polen and Jonathan Rea’s record for wins in a WorldSBK season.

His crash in Race 2 does, however, end his run of 14 straight wins in the full-length, 25-point max races.

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