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WorldSBK Aragon: 'More balanced' Panigale key to Bautista pace

Two very tough years at Honda for Alvaro Bautista may have been the end of his WorldSBK championship ambitions, especially as he is currently 37 years-old.

But his double win and narrow championship lead of three points over race one winner Jonathan Rea confirmed that nothing may be impossible for Bautista this season.

Anyone could see how much he enjoyed the win after race two. In parc ferme, on the podium, everything. So was it as much of a relief to be back there after those two years, as a joy at winning?


“To be honest, yesterday I was happy but I didn’t feel so relaxed because I didn’t give my best in the race,” said Bautista about his 99 per cent ride on Saturday. “After this morning’s race, the Superpole race, I was like, ‘I can do all my best and can show the people that I’m here and that I want to go for more.’

"So, I’m now more relaxed because I won, but I’m more relaxed because especially this morning I can feel free on the bike and do my best and don’t think about finish the race. Just searching the limit every corner, every lap, but not over pass. So, this is the target for this season for me. Position at the end is important, but for me, it’s try to get the maximum of each condition, no matter the result and don’t try to overpass the limit. Just get the maximum in all conditions.”

In 2019, despite all those unstoppable early wins, the Ducati/Bautista package went in search of more on what was then a fully-new bike. So times were different then, despite the same kind of results as Bautista posted in two fo the three Motorland races.

“That time was the first year for Ducati,” explained Bautista. “So, also then they needed more experience, more data. We start to try different things to see which direction to take for improve. Maybe half season we were a bit loose. I didn’t have a lot of experience in this championship with these tyres, so also for me it was difficult to give a direction. But now, fortunately, they did improve the bike like a fast bike, but all the negative points they improved a lot.

"So now it seems that the bike is more balanced. My feeling is that I’m fast as three years ago, but that time I was very, very, very close to the limit and was very easy to pass the limit. Now it seems like I have more space to arrive to the limit. So, I think this is very important - to go fast but to be safe.

"After these two years they improved the bike, but also me, working with another bike, trying to get all the maximum in all the conditions. So I grow up like a rider and I have more experience. Sincerely, I feel better than ever in all my career, physically but also mentally. I feel like a rookie rider.”

An ominous portent for his 2022 rivals, unless of course Ducati and Bautista go off the rails as spectacularly as they did in 2019? Maybe now they will not touch the bike until the end of the season?

Yeah, exactly. Basically, from the first time I tried the bike in November, we didn’t touch the bike. Just to adjust for tracks. We made some tests, some geometry tests - but a small thing. We were not sure, so we come back. At the end, we make some small, small change, but basically the bike is the same as the first time I tried it in Jerez. Also, coming from a difficult bike - for me - was very easy to go fast with this bike and like this setup.

"Maybe if we start to work, maybe I find another better setup, but we have to tried many, many, many times. In that way, maybe we lose more than we gain. So, at the moment, we prefer to just keep the bike like this and just work for the setup in every track.”

So lots of the 2019 teething problems have been worked out in the past two years with Bautista away at Honda, finding problems with far more bite to his championship chances. But he has already had a year on the same basic bike he is riding now. Useful even now, after two full seasons?


“Yeah, it’s useful because the bike in like performance is maybe not much, much better, but is now more balanced,” said Bautista. “So, I think we can use a bit, but from all the tests I did until now and also this race, I didn’t compare the data. Also tyres are different. In that time, there was no SCX tyre, so I had to race with the SC0 every time, or even harder tyre. So, at the end, it’s just to have a reference there.”

Next up for Bautista and crew is Assen, 22-24 April, where he won both the races that took place that year.

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