Runaway WorldSBK championship leader Alvaro Bautista made his Imola debut on the factory Ducati during a test two weeks before the start of race weekend itself, setting around 20 dry laps and then 20 wet laps. Full wet conditions.
“Full wet,” Bautista told bikesportnews.com, “some rivers crossing the track.”
This time may be useful for Bautista as Sunday at Imola is set to see the arrival of wet conditions, after a fully dry and sunny Friday. “We will see on Sunday because the forecast seems like a lot of heavy rain, and with heavy rain here I think it is in the limit.”
Day one on Friday went well for the diminutive Spaniard, but not as well as he hoped, as he finished 0.7 seconds behind Rea. “For us today was not the first time, but nearly the first time, because FP is like the race time.
“In the morning I had some problems stopping the bike, for the stability, and the feeling was not really good. I tried also a new tyre that Pirelli brought here and the difference was not too big. So in the afternoon we worked on the set-up of the bike to give me more confidence to stop and to enter corners.
“I could make a good rhythm. At the end I did not use a new tyre – I stayed all the practice with the same tyre – and I did more than race distance and my pace was quite good. My feeling with the bike started to come back good. Like always.”
The obvious question for Bautista was what he thought about Imola, as there are few - if any - MotoGP tracks that are this ‘old school.’
“I think the track is as you say, old school, because it is too narrow and also you have basically one line along the track,” he stated. “You cannot make a mistake because all the corners, it seems like they are together. You have to connect all the corners on the track.
“If you make a mistake in corner, maybe you make a mistake in the next three corners. So you have to be very focused in all the laps. You cannot make a mistake. For sure compared to the new tracks the safety level; maybe this track is under the limit.
I see the walls very, very close to the track, and also I think we need some curbs, especially in the braking points in the corners because in many braking points there are no curbs, and there is directly the grass.
“So if you slide a lot with the rear maybe you can touch the grass and imagine what can happen. But on the track when you make the right line, you enjoy.
“It is also physically very hard because you do not have time for a rest during all the laps. You go from one side of the track to the other side to make the next corner so every time you are fighting with the bike.”
Bautista was 0.7 seconds behind Rea after two FP sessions, and when asked if the gap was not a real one he said, “It depends but the real gap is 0.7… One thing is how many laps the tyre has, and for sure we did not use a new tyre at the end.
But for me, the importance and the points are in the races. Free practice for me I use normally to make a race set-up and race feelings. I am not worried.
“Also for me, it is not the same to make two free practice sessions compared to racing in this track for many years. I started to feel much better with the bike and this is the important thing.”