After the 2022 WorldSBK season ‘Big Three’ looked all that and more at Assen on Friday, Saturday and Superpole saw Alvaro Bautista starting from the middle of the second row, with designs on adding to his two Motorland Aragon race wins on his Aruba Ducati homecoming season.
Hence his opening gambit when asked about a race that gave him second place, by just the merest sliver.
“Starting from the back, it was important to don’t make a mistake in the start and have a good position,” said Alvaro. “I saw that at the beginning the pace was not so fast. So, I decided just to stay behind the group and just save some tyre life for the end of the race.
“At one point of the race, Alex Lowes and Andrea Locatelli started to battle between them. I saw the gap with Toprak and Jonathan was increasing. So, I decided to pass them and release the gap. I did it.
“When I arrived to them, I was watching the battle between both. But, I said, ‘OK I want to be part of the battle.’
“I passed Toprak. Today I was strong in some parts of the track, but not so strong in others. I think the wind did not help me too much. For sure, for everybody is difficult but maybe because I’m a bit lighter, in this moment I think this happened to be like that.
“But in any case, I tried to be close to Jonathan until the end. The last chicane I was very close, but it was a point that I was not strong. He was really strong. So, I thought, OK. I try!”
The last lap try was genuine, but never quite came off. And he knew there was some risk to try and pass Rea. “I got inside and what happens, happens. But can happen everything!
“Also having Toprak, you can win or you can crash or you can go third. At the end, the more safe option was to just stay there and maybe Jonathan makes a mistake and I have the chance to pass him. But he did really well. I just stayed second. Happy because I felt strong. I felt confident. Also I felt very safe in all the laps. Not risking more than necessary. We were very close many times.”
Bautista is not sure if the obvious fact that in clean air he won two of the three Aragon races at the first round with some degree of comfort, but lost the one he got ambushed too often in. He was not sure it was possible to do the same at Assen, although Sunday may deliver a different version of events, more like Motorland.
“I don’t know, because I think in Aragon in some parts of the track I was stronger than them, and in other parts I was like them,” he admitted. “So, in that track, in that moment, in that situation, I just had some advantage. So, the worst places for me was like them. So at the end, I can push but here it’s different because I think there are more points that I’m worse than points that I’m better. So, I don’t know, but for sure if I get the leader, that it was difficult because in some places I lose a lot and in my stronger points I have to recover to pass them. So, if I can go away, maybe in their strong points pass me.
“So, I don’t think that today I can go away like I think in Aragon. As I said, in Aragon race one, I was maybe too much calm. Maybe in that moment I can make some distance. But today for me, it was not possible like in Aragon.”