Aruba.it Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista has now taken five wins from six WorldSBK races, but the missing victory was actually a trip to the gravel rather than a mere second or third place at Mandalika.
If you must crash in a WorldSBK race then the Superpole Race is the one to do it in, as your loss of points is only a maximum of 12, not 25. Bautista was not in the lead to lose even 12 points when he fell and no-scored, but had just been overtaken by Jonathan Rea.
After securing the Race Two win, and feeling a lot better about himself as he left Lombok with a 37 point lead over Toprak Razgatlioglu, Bautista described how he became one of the many victims of the incredibly slippery off-line track surface at Lombok.
“I entered to the corner 12,” the reigning champion recounted. “Jonathan came up the inside. Both of us wanted to go in the good line, and then we went both out of the line.
“In this track if you go out of the line it’s very easy to crash.
“I tried to pick up the bike, tried to be smooth with the gas, but I just touched a little bit the gas and ‘schoom…!’ I lost the rear. Also Jonathan was the same, so it’s dangerous. I think in a normal track, I wouldn’t crash but lucky that I was not injured.”
Bautista was cool with Rea’s pass, saying it was not the cause of his fall, even if his great desire to stay close and open the throttle early was his ultimate undoing.
“For sure, if I’m alone, I don’t go out of the line,” Bautista said. “He tried to overtake me, so normal. But the problem is when you have like this good asphalt, if both want to enter, it’s impossible. I don’t want to just let him pass and go to the front so I tried just to stay. He tried to stay. I don’t really know if we touch or not, but it was a good overtaking. Aggressive, but I’m not complaining. I crashed because of the dirty track, not for Jonathan.”
Until that point, Bautista was happy and confident. “The feeling was good. I was really easy like yesterday.”
The Spaniard swapped away from supposedly softer, Superpole-oriented SCX rear tyre for the Superpole race. Illogical, but not for him. “Yes, in the morning I used the SC0 in the Superpole Race. I don’t know why, in the morning the SC0 is working better. I used in the morning warmup and I felt a good feeling. So, I used it in the Superpole race. At the end, the SC0 in the morning had more. I don’t know if because it gave more grip or what, but with the SCX it moves more. With SC0 maybe a bit less grip, but more stability exit the corner.”
The difference between the available race tyres at Mandalika was explained by Bautista thus, “They are very close. This SCX is more close to the SC0 than the standard SCX because here is another kind of SCX. It’s called an ‘800.’
Like almost every other rider, Bautista had to rely on an already part-used tyre combo for the final ‘real’ 14-laps of race two, after yet another red flag. New tyres go in for every race restart, but after the Friday and FP3 track conditions tore through everyone’s tyre allocation at faster than usual pace, both tyres and the ‘stickers’ that ensure riders do not go over their limit of tyres they can actually use on track were in short supply. You can only use tyres with stickers on in practice and races, so if you run out of stickers before tyres, you have had your rubber chips.
Bautista played the smartest game he could when faced with a softer but gripper SCX with more laps on it, or a previously used SC0 with only two laps on it. To win Race Two, he went with the ‘newer’ SC0.
“In the end, you have good things in one side, one good thing in the another,” he said. “I was doing a race just to stay calm because it was not easy to pass other riders, so just try to be smooth when I passed other riders.
“I think I was able to arrive to the front if they never stopped the race but at the end, they stopped, so we had to reset, re-adapt.
“When we re-start, I had to put the SC0 on the rear because I start with 800 (SCX-A option) in the race, like yesterday, but I had to change because it was either I put eight laps on 800 or two laps SC0 tyre. So at the end, I put the rear SC0 with two laps and the front SC1 with two laps.”
The Ducati rider did have a spare tyre in his allocation, but with no stickers left, he couldn’t use it.
“Front tyres, no new ones left,” he explained. “On the rear I had one soft, an SCX, but I don’t have sticker because we had the red flag on the Superpole race as well… I had one tyre, but no stickers.”
There was discussion about increasing the allocation of tyres, but it was decided against by the powers that be. “Technically, they were speaking when we were in the box to can use another tyre without a sticker. But at the end, no.” Should they next year, if this happens again?
“Yeah, I think it’s more safe,” confirmed Bautista. “I was lucky because I crashed in the Superpole race, I had a two-laps tyre. If not, I had to use the seven-laps tyre of the first part of the race. So at the end, it was lucky. In the right moment.”
For the first time this year Bautista lost points to Toprak Razgatlioglu in that Superpole race, but he was unfazed by his situation. Too early to worry about anything like that, he said after two rounds.
“Nothing now about points, about the championship,” he said. “It’s racing. For me it’s more important the feeling I have with the bike because we were very strong in Australia, also here that the last year we struggled.
“The feeling, the confidence that I have with the bike for me is the important because at the end if we can keep this feeling for the next races, we can be competitive and we can fight for victories. Then races are races and until the chequered flag, everything can happen. So at the end you cannot say, ‘OK, now I have two points less, but in one race more, one race less…’ Just try to forget about that. Now the first thing I want to do is just to do the test we have in Barcelona soon, because I like to ride the bike. I’m enjoying a lot. I just want to ride my bike.”