Alvaro Bautista has lavished praise on rival Toprak Razgatlioglu for keeping the 2023 WorldSBK Championship title fight alive until the final round despite the vast disparity in their race-winning fortunes over the course of the season.
Aruba.it Racing Ducati rider Bautista clinched his second WorldSBK title in record-breaking style this year, reeling off a remarkable 27 victories from 36 rounds, smashing the previous marker held jointly by Jonathan Rea and Doug Polen.
Though the statistics are skewed somewhat by there being three races per round of WorldSBK today, even without the added Superpole Race, Bautista’s full-length victory tally stands at 20 victories.
Despite this, Bautista was made to work for his title success by Pata Yamaha’s Razgatlioglu, who pushed the Spaniard to the final round before the championship was decided in the ex-MotoGP rider’s favour.
A measure of Razgatlioglu’s steadfast consistency with 33 podiums from 36 starts, Bautista admits his rival’s efforts despite the apparent gulf in performance of their machines is a measure of how talented the Turkish rider is.
“My fight for the Championship with Toprak this season has been difficult, especially in the second half of the season. Toprak was very strong. He never made mistakes.
“I had a record of victories this season but, even with this, he kept the title alive until the last round. That means his performance was unbelievable.
Indeed, Bautista says it gave him motivation in the lattermost rounds, saying it was his target to keep pushing for wins rather than play it safe and finish second to protect his points’ buffer.
“When you fight with him for the Championship, you can’t say ‘okay, today I’m second, I get some points’ because he’s always there.
“For that, I had to do the whole season by attacking. Doing my best, never relaxing and always on the limit. Portimao, especially Race 2, I said to everybody that I didn’t want to think about the Championship, I just wanted to fight until the end and get the maximum.
“For me, it was easy just to stay second and not risk anything. It is not my mindset. When you win and your rivals have the talent that Razgatlioglu and Rea have, it’s more important to win like this. I’m so proud of how I could manage the situation and the races.”