Catalunya WorldSBK test: Bautista not in a position to win races

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

Alvaro Bautista last year’s runaway rookie WorldSBK leader for Ducati but finally out of championship contention, jumped ship to Honda for 2020 just in time for Covid-19 to halt everyone’s progress to a normal season.

On a full factory HRC Honda, Bautista was back again at the Catalunya test and, finally, fifth fastest on day one but he warned it’s not enough to win races just yet.

“I feel not so bad to be back because I practice a lot in my home - changing nappies for my daughter,” he said. “It feels really good. For sure, I did not touch this kind of bike since the last race in Australia and also I was two months stopped at home just physically training.

“In the last weeks I have tried with a Supermoto and flat track bikes. When I rode those bikes I felt like always – I did not lose anything. All my feelings were OK. But this morning when I did the first lap it was incredible how the speed of my mind was.

“I could not reach all the kerbs, all the references, everything was passing really fast. But after some laps I recovered the feeling again. It started to work like normal and by the end of the day I was happy to ride more normally.”

The differences riding Catalunya on a Superbike and a MotoGP bike are there for Bautista, who spend his whole career bar 2019 in the MotoGP paddock, and going to Catalunya each year.

“It is not easy because it is a long time since I rode at this track, almost two years,” he said. “But the biggest difference is the main straight.

“Now it feels too long and I feel the engine is like too lazy. But for the rest; no big difference. The only thing is like the track grip is a bit better now.

I do not know if they chance something, or it is the bike power or tyres, but it is a bit better than the feeling I had in MotoGP, especially with the hot conditions.”

Thee are lots of new parts for Bautista to try on what is a ground up new Fireblade in-line four from deep in Honda’s engineering vaults. None of the new parts were on show at Catalunya, apparently.

“Basically, at this test we have the same bikes as the last race,” said Bautista. “For sure we collected a lot of data in Australia, and in Japan they have worked really hard in this lockdown. They have a lot of items to try.

“But in this test we prefer to ride, to get the feelings, and in the next test we have many things to try. Next time we will have new parts to try to develop and improve my feelings.”

A test is planned for Motorland Aragon next week, it appears, but how much progress can be made there?

“I dunno but I hope so. We know very well what we need and I look forward to testing there because we have many interesting things to test.”

Ducati, it seems, have not been able to go to work in lockdown, but not so with Honda, so does Bautista see that as a kind of advantage now, despite all the other issues with time for pre-season preparation? “I think we have been at a disadvantage from the beginning so if we can have an advantage – that Honda can work in the lockdown – then maybe we are closer to them,” he said, unsure but optimistic, it seems.

Lots of work to do still, even if improvements are found at the final test before the racing starts for real again at Jerez at the end of July, “For sure it is difficult in just some months to recover the distance we have to recover,” said Bautista. “I am convinced that we can make one step forward but I think it is not enough to fight to win races.”