Alvaro Bautista claimed his second and third WorldSBK race wins to add to the first one from Saturday and crown himself King of Phillip Island but is expecting more of a challenge from Rea and the rest in Thailand.
His bike was not too shabby, and when asked to sum up what his bike is in one word he could not. But he said something profound anyway. “I cannot choose one word to describe the Panigale, but I would say it is… MotoGP for the street.”
His renegade MotoGP-derived big red Ducati was untouchable in his hands, even if his factory team-mate Chaz Davies is still toiling on his.
“For sure it is unbelievable,” said Bautista. “A weekend like this is just in the dreams, no? This morning I enjoyed the Superpole race a lot with Johnny. For sure the track conditions were easier to go fast and we did a good pace. In the afternoon, the final race, it was too hot and track conditions were worse than in the morning.
“I tried to be focused at the beginning because I thought Johnny would want to stay with me like he did in the short race. I did the race a bit faster than yesterday because yesterday at the end I was saving a lot the rear tyre and it did not drop off a lot. So today I forced more at the beginning, took some advantage, and won the race.”
Wondering how Bautista could look after his tyres so well that he was 18 seconds ahead before he rolled off to cross the line just over 12 seconds ahead, he was asked straight out how he did it. “I dunno,” he said. “In MotoGP I was the same. I never have big problems for the tyre consumption. I think it is the way I ride the bike or the way that I work with my team to prepare the bike for the races.
“I like to work with a used tyre and work with the electronics. Maybe for that reason I am so consistent and we cared a lot with tyres. But we could not be so competitive in qualifying. Maybe the power and the traction control we prepare for race distance. In one lap maybe we are not at the top but then for the pace we can make a good rhythm and be constant.”
Bautista certainly had faith in his first weekend on Pirelli tyres. “My front tyre was perfect. The rear for sure dropped grip, but not crazy. If you see my pace I just slowed down he last two laps, but before it was 1’31 medium.”
Bautista allows that the Pirelli tyres in WorldSBK are different from the tyres in MotoGP, but also explained why he has been able to get used to them so quickly. “Also the power of the bike is less, so you stress less the tyre. I really feel good with these tyres. You can feel more how it works. The front is amazing how you feel it.
“I had, during the winter tests and just a couple of times, a feeling like you lose the front. But you can recover. With the other tyres you lose, and when you want to recover, you are on the grass. Impossible. This tyre allows you to make more mistakes.”
Bautista’s expectations of his first race were not high, not low, but he managed to make it a super-high experience anyway. “Sincerely, I did not expect anything. I just came here to do my work, keep my learning with this bike and this tyre. I never think about the results; trying to win or something. My target was to get the maximum out of the bike.”
With Bautista not having won a race for a long time, he made a joke about how long it has been since he felt this particular joy. “My last weekend like this – was my ten-year challenge! I think the next races will be more competitive than the races that we saw this weekend.”