"You have to be beaten to value the victories more" – Bautista after return to winning ways

Four winners in six races in the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship as Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) got back to the top of the podium with a vintage Race 2 win. A race about managing tyres and very much ‘master vs apprentice’ themed with teammate Nicolo Bulega right in contention, it was an emphatic win for the reigning double Champion who is very much back in the mix.

After a good start from the front, Bautista led the field and a Ducati 1-2-3 into the first corner. Teammate Bulega tried to make his way through on Lap 4 at Turn 10 but ran wide on exit, allowing his veteran teammate back into the lead. At Turn 1 a lap later, ‘Bulegas’ was into P1 and immediately pulled out an advantage of seven tenths of a second. However, staying calm and not being dragged into another tyre tussle, Bautista let the race come to him, passing his rookie stablemate with 11 to go at Turn 1. Although Bulega tried to go with him, the 39-year-old had the overall race pace to stay ahead and managed his tyre to take a first win of his 2024 campaign.

“It has been amazing,” began Bautista at the end of race day. “Even with the penalty on the grid from yesterday and having to recover a lot of positions, also today in the Superpole Race, we were able to be competitive and have a good performance and fight for the victory until the last lap. In Race 2 I enjoyed because it wasn’t easy. In the grid we decided to change the rear tyre because, with less temperature, I thought the SCX could be a better option than the 900. In the beginning I tried to not force the tyre, maybe I slowed down too much, but I was leading, nobody wanted to go faster.”

The Spaniard’s quest to become Ducati’s first rider to achieve three consecutive titles is now back on track and he’s second in the Championship standings with just a twelve-point deficit to his new teammate Bulega. Bautista came into 2024 injured after a testing crash at Jerez at the end of 2023’s season, whilst new rules give him something to contend with too. Moreover, with the level increasing all the time in WorldSBK, his 60th career win on Sunday afternoon came as one of his most calculated; it was also a 97th win for Spain, meaning next time out at Assen, they could mathematically make it to 100, the fifth country to hit such a mark (UK on 307, USA on 119, Australia on 118 and Italy on 108).

Resuming about his strategy for the win, Bautista stated: “After a few laps, Nico passed me and I said ‘yes, I agree, I’m too slow. Maybe you want to push a bit more’. I could be 3-4 tenths faster, but not more, otherwise the tyres were going to drop a lot on the last laps. He did two very fast laps, so I just kept calm and a few laps later I started to catch him.

“I’m really happy; today and yesterday we did three very different races and in all three we were quite competitive. This year, we have to get the maximum in all circumstances because there are a lot of riders fighting for the win. Last year, I was winning but it was like ‘another win, OK, another win’ and this isn’t good. You have to be beaten to value the victories more and for that, today I have a special memory. Now I’ve won but when can I do it again, you never know.”

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Source: WorldSBK.com

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