Alvaro Bautista continued his perfect start to the 2019 Superbike World Championship season with three more dominant wins in his home round at Aragon, Spain, this weekend.
The former MotoGP rider set pole position and won the two main races by 15 and seven seconds, as well as taking Sunday’s 10-lap Superpole sprint race by nearly six seconds.
“It has been an extraordinary weekend for me,” said Bautista, who had the honour of taking Ducati’s 350th win in the championship. “Winning three races here in Spain in front of my family, my friends and the Spanish fans was really great. In all three, I was able to make my own strategy, that is get a fast start and maintain my own pace. For sure the conditions in the three races were different, especially today in the Superpole Race which took place in the morning when it was very cold. Luckily it got a bit warmer for race two, but you could really feel the wind. Despite this, I was able to stay focussed, understand the situation on the track and push hard all the way. In the end we have won nine races out of nine (this season) and I’m so happy about that.”
Despite Bautista’s dominance, the racing behind him was out of the top drawer. Defending world champion Jonathan Rea maintained his record of finishing second in every race this season, but had to work hard for them in Aragon.
After messing up Saturday’s qualifying session, the 32-year-old Carole Nash ambassador had to start Saturday’s 18 lapper, and Sunday’s sprint race, from 10th. In all three races he faced stiff opposition from a resurgent Chaz Davies (third in both feature races), back to form on the second Ducati, and the improving Yamaha of fellow Brit Alex Lowes (third in the sprint). With Eugene Laverty also returning to the mix, and team-mate Leon Haslam having a strong Sunday race, it made for one of the most exciting world superbike battles in recent times.
“It was a tougher Sunday than I expected and the strategy was different,” added Rea. “Especially in the sprint race, I lost a lot of rear traction at the end. We think it was a consequence of being so fast in the beginning. During the 18-lap race I decided to be calmer in the beginning but when Alex Lowes came through he had a good pace with Chaz Davies. I started to panic a little bit that maybe these guys had an extra gear. And then Leon came past, so I had to step up and really use the tyre that I was conserving. My body language was a lot different at the end of the race because I really put my head down and maximised where we were strong. It looks like our bike is really creating a lot of traction in the long corners, which is positive. Our corner entry is not so bad. It was nice to see Leon in the front as well because our data becomes more relevant to compare and we can try to move the bike set-up forward together.”
Team-mate, and fellow Carole Nash backed star, Haslam was also handicapped by a poor Saturday qualifying session, where he was 12th. That blunted his challenge on Saturday, where he was an uncharacteristically low ninth, but on Sunday he came back to tussle with Rea and Davies for the podium, only narrowly missing out on a podium finish, in fourth.
“Starting from the fourth row was not ideal in the first two races so we used the sprint race to get back into it,” added Haslam. “The team has done mega-well from really struggling on Saturday morning to being able to battle for second place for Johnny. What a turnaround. I am really happy about what we have done here and I feel quite positive. In the sprint race I did not get the best of starts but it got me a better grid position for the final race. We made some steps in being able to pass people in the last race as well.”
The results see Bautista on a perfect score of 186 points after three race weekends, but Rea’s consistency sees him in touch, 39 points adrift, Yamaha riders Lowes and Michael van der Mark are the best of the rest, 86 and 107 points behind Bautista respectively, with British champion Haslam fifth on 74 points.
The next round takes place this weekend at the historic TT circuit of Assen, in the Netherlands.
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