Maybe you have to have the best Ducati and crew out there, and also be as small and skilful as Alvaro Bautista, to opt for an SC1 front and an SCX-A rear tyre at a circuit as tyre hungry as Mandalika has been this WorldSBK weekend.
People were getting two laps out of their tyres in FP3 on Saturday morning, and having meetings about what to do about it on an organisational and team level. But despite all that, after Superpole found greatly improved conditions, on a racing line no wider than a standard single kitchen unit, the reigning World Champion went all maverick on his rubber choices and won the opening race.
He ran away to victory, in fact, with more life to spare from his tyres that most others.
Many people went for the SC2 front and SC0 rear, but Bautista had all the cards he needed with his way softer rear.
As the man himself explained, “During all the weekend, we were struggling a lot with the tyre consumption especially on the front, because in the practice after three or four laps… no front tyre. Most important to don’t stress too much especially at the beginning the tyre, because if you stress too much, then you cannot recover. So I just tried to stay calm in the first laps.”
An errant Michael Ruben Rinaldi crashed at turn one, lap one, and nearly collected a few riders on the way, including Bautista. “I was lucky in the first corner because my teammate missed the brake point and was very close to touch me,” he admitted. “When I was behind Toprak [the early leader, starting from pole position], I didn’t want to disturb the tyre. I tried to be very, very smooth also in the rear. At the same time, I could see him. I think he was doing more or less the same because I saw him and he was very smooth, not pushing like other times. So I was quite calm because I thought, ‘well, he has the same approach as me in the race, so we are more or less in the same side.’ But also we have a big group at the beginning, so I saw the lap time ’33 medium, high, and I thought, ‘OK maybe I can increase a little bit the pace’. Not too much, but at least three or four tenths, just to don’t have a big group. So, I just passed him, not easy, but more or less under control. Then I tried to increase the pace. I did it, and the feeling with the tyre was good. Tyre consumption was good.”
What seemed like an almost wild tyre gamble to Bautista (and his teammate who never made it past a single corner) was explained by Bautista. “The soft of this season is the hard of last season, so it’s the tyre I use normally. The hard of this season, every time I try, for me it’s softer. Moves more, less precision to entry. So at the end for me, the SC2 is softer than SC1 for me, for my bike and my package, I feel worse with SC2. Pirelli say it’s harder, but maybe for other reasons, maybe it’s too hard or something, but I cannot use. In fact, was the tyre I used last season here because they didn’t bring the SC1 of this season. Today I realised that last season was like this.
“This season, I can be more precise, more stopping, better timing. Last season I struggled a lot with the front.
“So for me it was clear the tyres, because also yesterday in the afternoon with the track conditions like today more or less in the race, with high temperature, with the 800 tyre (code for the SCX tyre he used) I felt good, consistent, good grip and the performance was quite consistent, no big drop. But the problem is that this morning, we had a lot of drop from the tyres. I think the track conditions were very different from yesterday. The grip was too low. After two laps, no tyres, front and rear. So for that, was the doubt about SC0, SCX. I think for that reason, many riders used SC0. But for me, SCX today was perfect.”
When asked about his teammate Rinaldi’s over exuberant first corner move that ended in a fall, Bautista stated. “Yeah, I think it’s big pity for him because he’s very strong here as well, and he can make a good position today because he had a good pace but I feel like he missed the first corner.
“I think he wanted to be in the front as soon as possible and he missed the braking. Here it’s not like a normal track. You have the dirty side on the side, and he was there and the bike never stopped. He has to be more calm, more patient. He’s very young and he wants to show his potential. Especially this kind of races are so long and you have to manage the tyre, the energy… So, it’s not all about one corner. You have to be patient and just try to build up and do a good race.”