Hat-trick and world championship leadership with an already quite large advantage in the standings: Alvaro Bautista’s season could not have started better than this. At Phillip Island the reigning champion began his defense of the title and it seems that the company is already succeeding very well. In the three races held in Australia he dominated despite the difficulties given by the different conditions that the riders had to face. Rain, wind and sun represented a coefficient of difficulty that the Spaniard passed brilliantly.
No sooner had the season begun than Bautista broke a new record: with his 35th career victory in the Superbike world championship, he became the fifth most successful rider ever, overtaking Tom Sykes by a length. A start to the season to be framed: “We can only say that it was a perfect weekend, because they were three really different races. So I’m happy because I felt good, went fast and was competitive in all conditions.”
He had already begun his Superbike adventure in 2019 by signing the hat-trick and last year he closed the season with two victories out of three races. Phillip Island really seems like a track congenial to his riding style: “I don’t know why it suits me, maybe because I like fast corners and this track has a lot of them. Maybe that’s why, but this year if you look at the winter tests I was fast on every track. I took a step forward because I know the bike better, how the tires work, the new bike makes it easier for me to exit corners…it’s a combination of everything that has made me take a step forward compared to 2022. I don’t see looking forward to seeing how we go in Indonesia, because last year I didn’t feel really able to fight for the win, so I’m curious to come back and see if the feeling has improved”.
The inaugural 2023 round was the first test of the work done over the winter. Ducati has brought a new bike, to which Bautista has adapted right away, forming a combination that at the moment seems unbeatable. However, it’s still not perfect: “The good thing is that this new character of the engine allows me to be a little slower in the middle of the corner, so I don’t need to make too much speed through the corners, so the exit is easier when open the gas. I would like to improve the stability, because the bike moves a lot. Even the combination between me and the weight, it’s not easy to keep the bike down even when changing direction, I have to move a lot on the bike, but because I’m small and I have to move more with my body. It’s a difficult thing to fix, but even in testing we tried to make the bike calmer. Sometimes I felt this thing, but then I lost in terms of turning or grip. So in the end you have to find the best possible combination.”
Alvaro Bautista, Aruba.it Racing Ducati
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
“I didn’t expect to win three races in a row,” says Bautista. “Especially yesterday with the rain, in which nobody had a reference. Honestly today in Race 2 I knew that I had a constant pace and I was also able to manage tire wear. In the Superpole Race I expected more battle than I saw, everyone was on the softs, many managed to be fast. But races are races, when you practice it’s one thing, but then the race is another story. It’s not that I didn’t expect to win, but that wasn’t the main goal, because I wanted to get here and give it my all.”
It’s an unrivaled Bautista we saw in Australia this weekend. Or rather, with different rivals, first of all the teammate. Michael Ruben Rinaldi accompanied him on the podium by signing the Ducati double in both Superpole Race and Race 2 and Andrea Locatelli also showed himself to be very solid in this start to the season. On the other hand, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea were missing out a bit, running into mistakes (their own or their opponents’, see the crash between the Turkish rider and Alex Lowes in Race 2) or technical difficulties.
For this reason, the Spaniard from Ducati believes that this year we must be careful because, despite showing incredible superiority, many will fight for victory during the season, with new riders joining the list of contenders for podium positions : “This weekend I was lucky. I have been competitive and it is important to try and get the most out of each race weekend. Here I think we were better than Razgatlioglu and Rea, Toprak crashed and it wasn’t his fault, Johnny had a problem with another rider, but we took advantage of that by maximizing the weekend. But I don’t think this year will be just between me, Johnny and Toprak. There are other riders, like Locatelli, Rinaldi… they too will be fighting for the podium or for the win. This year if you don’t have a good day you have more riders in front of you, it won’t be like last year where it was just the three of us. We need to be even more precise, concentrated and make as few mistakes as possible”.
Finally, Alvaro is asked to think about the probable return of Imola to the Superbike calendar. The rumor has been circulating for a long time and only the last details would be missing before the official announcement, but there is still no news about it. According to the reigning champion, he could do without returning to Santerno: “Honestly, for me we are a bit at the limit in terms of safety. The walls are very close, in some areas there are no large escape routes, so in my opinion it is a very dangerous track. As for the layout, you adapt and working on the bike you can go fast. But for me if they improve safety it would be much better, but having the walls so close to the track makes me think it’s better not to race there. If you were to go, you will go, but I hope nothing happens.”