FROM P14 TO P3 FOR BAUTISTA: “Third the maximum I could do… a surprise for me!”

The 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship might only be four races old, but the drama has been incredible and keeps going. While the race win wasn’t possible, Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) fought his way back from the fifth row to claim a stunning third place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, bouncing back from a tricky Saturday morning to return to the home rostrum during the Pirelli Catalunya Round.

Having shown strong pace on Friday, Bautista was left outside the top ten in this morning Tissot Superpole session. The #1 was 11th and the first rider who didn’t break last year’s record, which he set in the 2023 Tissot Superpole session. Things got worse for the double Champion when he was given a three-place grid penalty for slowing riding in Superpole, meaning he’d start Race 1 from 14th and the fifth row, rather than 11th and the fourth row.

In the race, things were different for Bautista. His race pace on Friday was superb and that was on display again in Race 1. His pace between Laps 4 and 12 was consistently in the 1’42s bracket, except for one lap, before he dipped into the 1’43s on Lap 13. From there, he stayed in the 1’43s for four laps before finally hitting the 1’44s. For comparison, teammate Nicolo Bulega had laps in the 1’41s before dropping into the 1’42s from Lap 10, the 1’43s from Lap 14 and finishing in the 1’44s – including one that was almost a 1’45s.

Reacting to his epic comeback, Bautista said: “It’s never easy, especially because this track is so complicated to push from the beginning. You have to manage the tyres. I was in the situation that I wanted to push more in the first laps to gain some positions but, at the same time, I had to save the tyres. I tried to keep calm, to manage the tyre as well as possible. Behind the other riders, the big group, I had some problems with the front as it overheated. I didn’t have good turning and I had to save some slides with my elbow; fortunately, I could save everything. At the mid-race point, many riders were coming to me, and I think third was the maximum I could do.”

Although he kept making progress throughout the race, Bautista did lose a bit of time when he struggled to pass fellow Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team), taking a few laps to get by ‘Petrux’ as the #9 defended hard to keep position. Eventually, the reigning Champion got by and focused on the riders ahead, as he battled his way into third place to claim an unlikely rostrum after starting so far back.

When asked whether not passing Petrucci sooner cost him a chance of second or a win, Bautista said: “When you are behind the other riders, the front tyre doesn’t work as expected and I struggled to brake hard or enter fast into corners. I lost it many times behind other riders because I can’t do the lines I wanted to. I spent some time behind him, but I don’t think that if I passed him quicker, I could’ve got to second place. I think our best was to get a podium, but this was a surprise for me.”

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