Phillip Island WorldSBK test: Bautista struggling with ‘aggressive’ Honda

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

Alvaro Bautista swapped his multiple race winning Ducati in 2019 for an all-new Honda for WorldSBK 2020 but with the start of the season about to show up in a matter of days, it is clear that he is well behind in his hopes of where he would be.

Tenth, but a second off the best is not where he hoped to be. The Spanish former MotoGP star searched for positives and improvements were made on day two but he is a long way behind team-mate Leon Haslam.

“The feeling today was a bit better than yesterday We improved the feedback on the bike a little bit. For sure we are not in our maximum performance. We tried many things today and we found some positive - but also some negative - points. The important thing is that we collected a lot of data to make one step forward,” Bautista told bikesportnews.com

Bautista was much faster last year than so far this year at PI but is finding ways of going faster step-by-step.

“In the morning I felt not so bad and also the lap time was quite acceptable, for sure not like my pace from last season. That was all the time in the 1’30s, medium or low.

“We are still a bit far, but step-by-step improving the feedback. In the afternoon, all practice really, we tried to make a long run. Yesterday afternoon and this morning we did I think around 15 laps and today in the second session we did 23.

“We found interesting things about how the bike is working for that distance, especially with the electronics. We are a bit out of place so we need to improve a lot in that section. But now we have a lot of data, on a new tyre and a used tyre, after a lot of laps in a row, and we will see if we can make one step forward for the weekend.”

The lack of confidence and feedback Bautista is feeling has two major sources, and we do mean major.

“I think it is a combination electronics and mechanical things,” said Bautista. “The electronics, the engine, with the chassis the bike is too reactive. If the engine is aggressive and the frame – or the bike - is too reactive, if you put together it is difficult to ride.

“I feel the biggest problem is that one. You have to calm down all the reactions from the bike. I do not know if it is from the frame and cycle side or engine side. I think we need to make a combination between two to improve the feeling. But right now it is quite difficult to manage all the power we have.”

When asked what he thought his weekend race results would look like, Bautista said, “We have no expectation about the result, we have the expectation about our feeling and our development. I would for sure like to make one step forward to the race weekend. Right now we are more focused on ourselves than to see the other guys.

“For sure it is not the same, a test and a race weekend. Here you have a lot of time to make a lap time, less pressure, and many riders go faster in the test than in the races. I think I am the opposite. I like always to work during the test to first of all have a good feeling with the bike. And feel comfortable. Then - push!

In this test I never tried to find a good lap time. In the morning my best lap time was one second slower than the best but it was at the beginning of the race simulation after 15 laps. So times for sure are important so if you are more in front then you like it more, but I am more focused on myself to try to work in my bike and myself and then when everything is clear then push.

“The championship points and the important things will be in the race weekend and not in the test. In any case we are not in the same condition as last season. We are very bad and especially we need to improve my feeling with the bike.”

On day one Bautista alluded to being about 15% sorted with the bike. Of day two, he said, “Today we arrive 20 per cent. But at least it a bit better. If during the race weekend if we can arrive to 30 I can be happy.”

The championship will be a tough one for Bautista at this point, but he feels the bike has all the potential.

“I knew maybe I start the championship fighting to win races, but it is difficult the championship is too long and the important thing is to try to always improve and arrive to the top as soon as possible,” he stated. “More than if we can arrive, I think the question is when we will arrive. Sure it will arrive but I do not know when.”

All the same, when he signed a factory Honda contract he surely thought he would be able to fight for the championship from the beginning? As did others? “Me too,” said Bautista, “but this is brand new and maybe we found some more difficulties than we expect before.”