For the first time since he slung a leg over a WorldSBK machine in anger Alvaro Bautista did not win a WorldSBK race, or even really come close.
He was full of commitment at Imola, as his frequent interfaces with the kerbs and even a near fall or two in practice demonstrated, but his relative lack of track knowledge and some stability issues with his machine at such a rippled and one-line circuit told in the end.
Many even said that Chaz Davies, his (so-far) not as potent team mate in the V4R era, would be the Imola challenger to Rea, not Bautista.
Bautista himself did a good job of hiding his second place disappointment, entering a cramped interview area, stage-whispering in a comedy voice, “I didn’t win! I didn’t win!”
He was fairly beaten in his first defeat, but understood it was inevitable at some time.
“I didn’t win because Jonathan won. And only one can win.” he said. “I think today our maximum was to have second position because part of the track is new for me and maybe I am not at 100 per cent in this track, yet.
Our general problem with the bike may be in this track I can feel it worse. The stability of the bike and the turning. I think they are worse in this track. But I am happy because second position today was our maximum, I did it, and like I always say I try to do my best. Today I did that.”
Given the clear manner of Bautista’s victories up to now, it has been difficult to see what problems Bautista has on his bike. Up to now at least.
So do Ducati and Bautista know how to solve these issues, or need the forthcoming test at Misano to find it then fix it?
“I think it is the bike character more than the setup,” said Bautista, “I had the same problem from the beginning of the championship so we did not modify anything. Here in this track it is too narrow and too bumpy you can see on TV that the bike was moving everywhere.
“We will try to improve the problem. From the beginning of the season I always said and that the bike is not turning well and it moved a lot. Fortunately at the other tracks we can manage the situation but here it is more difficult. We will see if we have some idea if we can do something.”
“I do not think that the next circuit like Jerez or Misano is like this one. At least they are tracks that I know very well and I do not think that we will have a big problem like here. Portimao? It is a big problem but it is too far, so maybe we will find something in between!”
When asked when he knew for sure Rea would win, Bautista said, “Before the race I knew that his pace was really strong but who knows? The races are the races and I always try to do the best. I pushed from the beginning, and I saw my lap time was quite fast, but I saw Jonathan go faster.
“I thought if I could keep my rhythm he would have a problem with the tyre or something, maybe, but I saw that he was very consistent. I did not realise that it was time now to secure the second position. I just did my race the best I could but second was best today.”
Bautista will have two chances on Sunday to redress his race one fortunes but heavy rain is scheduled to arrive, which may change everything. Bautista has ridden perhaps 20 laps in the wet at Imola, in a recent test.
He does not seem keen to race in it, however.
In the rain anything can happen. For sure I think all the riders prefer dry conditions. In the test I did some laps on the wet, and it was raining quite hard for half an hour. Then I exited and did some laps.
“I think the problem here will be if it rains a lot. Because there were many ‘rivers’ across the track, so for the safety I think it is not the best track to rain.
“So we will see how the conditions are but for me, for the safety if it rains too much, it is very dangerous to race. We will cross the fingers that it does not rain because we prefer dry conditions.”