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Bautista: Ducati WSBK partnership stronger now than in 2019

Alvaro Bautista says both he and Ducati are in better shape in 2022 than they were during their previous spell together three years ago, after a successful reunion at last weekend’s Aragon World Superbike season opener.

Alvaro Bautista, Aruba.it Racing Ducati

Bautista was the first rider to seriously threaten Jonathan Rea’s run of dominance when he joined WSBK from MotoGP in 2019, winning an unprecedented 11 races in a row at the start of the campaign with Ducati and its then-new Panigale V4 R.

Bautista’s title challenge eventually crumbled in spectacular fashion and he ended up splitting with Ducati after a single season to join Honda, but the 37-year-old has returned to the Italian marque this year in place of BMW’s new signing Scott Redding.

Competing in his first weekend back at Ducati since the 2019 season finale in Qatar, Bautista successfully outgunned Rea and reigning champion Toprak Razgatlioglu in both races on Sunday to clinch a double win and take an early lead in the championship.

Speaking after the season opener, Bautista said he feels he and Ducati now form a very potent partnership, with both sides having worked on their weak points in the intervening years in search of championship succcess.

“That time was the first year for Ducati [with the Panigale V4 R],” he said about 2019. “Also they needed more experience, more data, and we started to try different things to see which direction to take for improvement. 

“By half-season [point] we were a bit loose. And I didn't have a lot of experience in this championship with this [Pirelli] tyre, so it was also difficult for me to give directions to the engineers. 

“But fortunately now, they didn't improve the bike [to make it a] fast bike, but they improved a lot [on] all the negative points. So now it seems like the bike is a more balanced bike. 

“My feeling is that I'm as fast as three years ago, but at that time I was very, very close to the limit and it was very easy to pass the limit. 

“Now I feel like I have more pace to reach the limit. This is very important, to go fast but to be safe. 

“After these two years they improved the bike but also me, working with another bike [Honda], I’m trying to always get the maximum in all the conditions. 

“So I'm growing up as a rider, I have more experience and sincerely I feel better than ever in all my career. physically but also mentally.”

Alvaro Bautista, Aruba.it Racing Ducati

Alvaro Bautista, Aruba.it Racing Ducati

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Bautista narrowly lost out to Rea in the opening race of the weekend, but had the edge over both the Kawasaki rider and the Yamaha of Razgatlioglu during the second day of running at the Aragon circuit.

On both occasions, Bautista was involved in wheel-to-wheel battles with Rea and Razgatlioglu, but could pull away from the duo by the mid-point of each race to take two conclusive victories.

However, despite his winning margin in the second full-distance race of the weekend being over four seconds, Bautista denied that he is “unbeatable” on the Ducati, saying a two-day pre-season test at Aragon worked in his favour.

“I was really strong and really consistent during the Superpole race,” said the 37-year-old. “I didn't expect to go as fast as I did. I saw that everybody went fast at the beginning but then they dropped, so I was quite happy.

“In the afternoon it was a different story because the track condition was different. The track never touched 28C during all the days before Sunday. 

“I just tried to push to the limit the track allowed me [to], never trying to risk more. I could get some distance as well [over Rea] and then win. 

“But nobody is unbeatable. We just did very good work with the team and the bike was perfect on Sunday, in the morning but also in the afternoon.

“[At Aragon] I could be very strong. but after a few days of testing here it was easier. The problem will be the next races where we will only have FP1, FP2 to prepare for the race. For everybody it will be the same, but now I just want to enjoy the moment.”

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