Although Alvaro Bautista won two WorldSBK races at San Juan, both the long 21-lap affairs, he missed out on winning the Superpole race. He was confronted with the possibility that he decided to leave out any overly hard effort at winning the ten-lap race, but rebuffed it completely.
He just knew that it was a big ask when Razgatlioglu was in such a determined mood. But if Rea had not run off track, Bautista actually thought that it was going to be Rea’s ten lap victory, breaking his long drought.
“No, to beat Toprak today, because I think he wanted to win just for this, after yesterday,” said Alvaro about the eventual real on-track challenge he faced. “The only thing that has to be in his mind is to win. There is no other option. So, he tried. I know that. First of all, if Jonathan didn’t make a mistake, I think he would have won the race because he was stronger than Toprak and me.
"In fact, Toprak was behind him pushing to the maximum, and when Jonathan made a mistake, the pace of Toprak slowed down. So for me, Jonathan today had the pace to win the race. So, when I saw that, and I saw Toprak go slower, I said, ‘let’s try…’ Maybe I can fight for win. But he defended everything. He tried entry, everything, everywhere. At the end I tried a couple of times and in the last lap but he just pushed me out because there was no space.
"I went out, out, out, out, out and I had to wait. I tried to go in a couple of times, but he was there always, so I had to wait. Then he turned, and then I was late. I lost there all my chance to fight for the victory.”
And Bautista underlined that he really does want to fight for the victories, big points lead or not. “In any case, I didn’t think second is OK, just relax. No! Always I see that I can win, I do. Like in the afternoon, although the track was more difficult than yesterday, more slippery.”
Because of the heat? “Yeah. Well, I think yes. I didn’t make the start but at the same way, it was good because at least some rider in front of me discovered the track, the situation. Then when I saw, this is the maximum that the track will allow you to push, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ I just tried to not make a mistake. I saw Toprak was very close to me and I thought, shit… If he stays behind me all the race, he’ll try at the end for sure because his only chance, he has to win.
"I said, OK, don’t think about nothing. Just push and give your everything. I gave my best. I didn’t think about points, about crash, about championship, about nothing. Just try to be focused, try to don’t make mistake, try to use all the limits of the track that allows me to go faster. At the end, I can get some advantage that allowed me to arrive with some gap at the end. But believe me, today I gave my everything, in the Superpole race and also in Race Two.”
Even after what looked like a pivotal weekend to most people in the championship fight, Bautista said he is still looking in the now, because that’s the happy place that has taken him 82 firecracker points ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu and 98 ahead of Rea.
“No. It’s better no, because why? This way that I’m doing the things is going well. I enjoy a lot. I don’t feel pressure because I don’t think about the result. I just think about the moment, about the performance. Why change the mentality? I have to keep this mentality like if there is not a championship. This is 2022. Next year 2023, so it’s like a continuation.
"It’s not like now finished. No, this is one race more, one race more, one race more. We have now two rounds, but then big stop and then 15 races. It’s better to enjoy the moment.”
There was one bizzare potential pitfall for Bautista at the end of the weekend, as in Race Two he was touching down his left foot entering some corners (as many riders do these days) that he literally wore a hole through his boot. Not at the sliders, but at the toes, to the centre and underneath the designed-in toe-slider area. Lifting his foot up, you could clearly see his toes through the many layers of his boot’s protectiove materials.
“Normally I use the left foot in the braking point, because like balance or a reference,” said Bautista. “This track is one of the more aggressive tracks for this. I have a hole in my boot and I touched with my toe I broke through my sock as well. So I have my toes sticking out of the boot. I need like a steel flat track boot.”