HRC’s Alvaro Bautista fell while challenging twice for the main WorldSBK race podium at Portimao, and all without his favoured SCX rear tyre.
His crashes were one fast front ender, at the same turn 15 corner Rea had fallen at, in race one, and then one high profile clash with Loris Baz on Sunday afternoon, which Honda complained about and at present, got Baz relegated to fourth for.
All a shame for Bautista who was on top form on a bike that has had its troubles to seek.
“I felt not so bad, even with the electronics after the warmup,” he said on Sunday afternoon. “We adjust a little bit, but it was not really perfect for the conditions. In any case, was quite a performance and I finished on top five, so good result (in the wet Superpole race). In race two, same as yesterday. I lose some positions at the beginning, but then I was with the group fighting for top four. Then Toprak crashed and again another chance to go to the podium.
“I’m happy with the performance because I feel a bit better than yesterday, especially with the rear tyre. We adjust also with the small things on the electronics, so today I was able to feel a bit better the rear. So, that is a good sign because at the end of the weekend, the tyre worked better than other times, so it’s nice.”
Then it went wrong.
“I was battling with Baz. Yesterday I said that he was stronger than me in the rest of the track. Today I felt a bit better than him. So, today I think I was able to finish third position. I just had to find the place to overtake him. I tried many times in turn one, but I went wide a little bit and I lose the position for a couple of times. Then, I try in turn five. I enter braking quite well. I keep my line, even some centimetres more inside than normal. I did a really good pace overtaking. But, just when I was exiting from the corner, there was no space inside. Then I saw him just straight to me and hit me and I crashed.
“I think he has to be penalised because the accident was very clear. I passed him. I didn’t go wide. I didn’t go wide. When I was just exiting from the corner, he was straight to me. If you see the image, you see in mid-corner, exit from the corner he was inside the curb, over the curb. In that corner, it’s not a corner that we use the curb for exit. For example, turn 14 that many times we cut the corner on the curb, but this corner no. He was just straight to me. Even when I saw him, and because I didn’t expect because I didn’t go wide, I tried to pick up the bike. He doesn’t care about turn. He just care about put me out, and not lose the position.
“I’m very angry with this movement from Loris. But at the same time, I think we have to be happy with the performance, with the work we did. In both races, we were fighting for the podium. So, that’s the important at the end. Races are races. These things can happen. Also, it’s a rider that’s not competing in all the championship and just put out on the effort of my team, not only me because the team is working well and HRC. For his irresponsibility, we lose a good result for all the team and for the image of the factory.”
Loris did speak with Baz afterwards, but it was not a convivial conversation. “Yeah, I speak with him before. He just said to me, ‘Sorry.’ I said, ‘Sorry? But why you go straight to me?’ ‘No, no. You were wide.’ I didn’t run wide! I saw the video. I have the video. I told him, ‘You were over the curb. In that corner, you don’t use the curb.’ He said, ‘No, but… During Mugello crash and broke my foot for seven pieces…’ Mugello? He knows very well that he did wrong. Then, we went to the race direction to explain our point of view, and they have to take a decision. I think this is important also.
"In these actions, race direction has to be strong. Not for us, but also for the young riders, because young riders need to know that you cannot do these things. If not, you penalise because at the end, we saw with the younger riders many crazy movements, more than over the limit. So, race direction has to be very strong with this kind of action. Because the young riders can learn of this, and it’s not good for the motorsport. We showed in the race many times and we were almost touching, but we respect. I think in that action, he didn’t care about the corner, about nothing. Just to hit me to don’t lose the position.”
Bautista was not aware that Honda is now close to BMW in the Manufacturers’ Championship, but also thinks it is secondary to the main aim of improvement of the bike.
“I didn’t think about that,” said Bautista. “Sincerely, no but, I think the important thing is that it seems like HRC is going up race by race. I think that’s the important. At the beginning, we struggled a bit more but now we are quite competitive. Also, Leon in this weekend was more competitive. I think the important is the progress we are doing, more the total of the championship.”
There has been a lot of talk about Toprak’s riding style being too aggressive. Does Bautista think he think he has to readjust his style if and when he goes to MotoGP.
“Yeah. For sure,” said Bautista. “These tyres allow you much more than MotoGP. MotoGP are more critical and you have to be more clean lines and more smooth riding style. I don't think that in MotoGP are less aggressive, but for sure the way Toprak uses the tyres, I think they cannot do in MotoGP in the same way.”
Even his Sunday fallout partner Loris Baz said Alvaro was riding the Honda so well, always on the edge, always on the limit. Bautista said, “Yeah. In the limit, I’m fighting with the bike every time. Especially this weekend even a bit more, because the rear tyre, in other races helped me a little bit to keep the line, but with the SC0 tyre yesterday especially I struggled a bit more mid-corner because there is less grip. So, pushed the bike out. Maybe this weekend we struggled, but today the bike was a bit better. We found some improvement on the rear. Yesterday, I was fighting more with my bike than with the other riders.”