After dominating round one a few weeks ago, Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista was once more the man to beat even from the first laps of the WorldSBK Championship event at Buriram and has vowed to take champion Jonathan Rea to his limit.
He headed up Kawasaki’s Rea in both free practices, with the Spanish rider almost 0.2 and then almost 0.3 seconds ahead, largely thanks to the early section of the 4.554km track, with its long straights.
The triple race winner from Phillip Island said, in answer to the joke question that he is not only fast in Phillip Island, “Well, you expect that I go slow here… no?
“It is a different track and the second time I rode here. Especially in FP1, we just focused on the track and to take the right lines during the laps. So I am quite happy because in the afternoon we tried the different solutions of tyres that Pirelli brought here and we found some positive and some negative points - but it was important to have at least the information for tomorrow and Sunday.
“We adjusted the bike a little bit as we needed to improve in T3 and T4. For sure the good point on our bike is in turning. So in those two sectors it is important to have bike that turns better. We found something better but we need to improve that. Our bike is not perfect in all areas.”
He may not have a perfect feeling yet, but Chang has started out where PI’s race weekend left off. “I think it was not just the track at PI or the conditions; the feeling was good there and I expect the same thing here, no big difference. For sure the bike can work a bit better or a bit worse but for sure the feeling was there, and here again I found it.”
Bautista, even though he led both opening sessions, thinks Rea can be closer to him in this round. “I think in this track, especially with the two last sectors at we are struggling to make the bike turn, we are struggling a little bit more than in Australia. That gap, for me this is a normal gap. What happened in Australia was exceptional.
“I did not expect that. So we are working to improve and enjoy these races more than Australia. I expect normal races here, and fighting. Especially in the Superpole race, with not only two riders. What I saw in practice today was that Jonathan and me were a step forward from the rest but also in the Superpole race everybody pushes more.
I think race one and race two will be more between Jonathan and me and the Superpole race we can see more riders fighting.
“But this morning I did my best lap time with 21 laps on the tyre, so I hope for a 1’33 low or 1’32 high pace. Fighting races are more fun for everybody.”
If Bautista was going to experience any issues with his transition from carbon to steel brake rotors, it would be at Chang, with its seriously heavy braking sections and very hot ambient temperatures. But he has not so far. “No, I did not feel any problems. For sure the potential of the braking is not the same as carbon brakes. But they are very consistent and very effective. I am happy.”
Bautista had said to one of the foreign media recently that Rea, in comparison with Marc Marquez at least, did not push to find the limit. Bautista clarified his statement, saying: “Normally when I saw his races, no. But I think he didn’t need. Maybe now he needs to go to the limit, because I will go to the limit. We will see.”