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Ride of the day? Race winner Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) might have something to say about that, but Alvaro Bautista (Ducati Team) certainly ran his compatriot close after challenging for the podium while replacing the injured Jorge Lorenzo at the Michelin® Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
You wouldn’t have blamed the Spaniard for taking it slightly easier on Sunday after crashing three times during the weekend, but he did the exact opposite. He remained firmly in the rostrum hunt until a small mistake with two laps to go cost him the chance to continue his brilliant battle with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and teammate Andrea Dovizioso.
“It was an enjoyable race because I could be with the front group, fighting for the podium,” said Bautista, who slowly progressed through the field from P12 on the grid to become a prolific figure in the fight for P2. “At the beginning, it was hard because we were a big group and there was some contact with other riders and we saw a scary crash with Zarco and Marquez. When the group was more of a line, I was able to stay with the front guys. I was fighting for the podium but with two laps to go I made a mistake with the gearbox again.
“I struggled all weekend to adapt to the gearbox and with two laps to go I made this mistake and lost distance to Dovizioso and Iannone and I missed that chance to fight for the podium. In any case, I feel really happy. It was not easy because after the three crashes over the weekend, the confidence isn’t high, but I managed the situation and could ride a good race. I’m so happy. Thank you to Ducati for this chance. It’s not easy to just have one weekend with a new bike and new team and be fighting for the podium in the race.”
With both Repsol Honda Team riders failing to finish, Ducati were handed the perfect chance to claw back some points in both the Constructors and Teams Championships. A P4 from Bautista was just about as good as Ducati could have been expecting from the number 19 rider, especially with him riding the GP18 for the first time, and on a track that hasn’t been kind to the Desmosedici in the past:
“Ducati is fighting to be the best factory in the Championship now. That’s what they wanted from me, so I tried to do my best and everybody was successful.” Now it’s back to his GP17 and the Angel Nieto Team colours as Lorenzo makes a return in Malaysia. But what will the 2006 125 World Champion miss most about the red machine?
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“I will miss the engine on this bike but Sepang is a different track because it’s hotter. The engine is important there, so I’ll miss this powerful engine but, now, I am more confident, so with my bike we finished in the top five, that means in Sepang we can do even better.”
Let’s hope we can see more of the same from Bautista before he moves across to the WorldSBK paddock in 2019.
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