WSB Aragon: Alvaro Bautista wins twice on his Ducati return

Alvaro Bautista is back on top in the World Superbike Championship
Alvaro Bautista is back on top in the World Superbike Championship

Alvaro Bautista ensured that his second debut with Ducati was a positive one by winning two of the three World Superbike Championship races at Aragon.

Bautista lost out to Jonathan Rea in a stunning opening race on Saturday afternoon, after the pair fought tooth and nail with reigning champion Toprak Razgatlioglu. The trio overtook each other multiple times, with Bautista and Rea eventually pulling away from Toprak.

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Bautista made his move on lap 14, only for Rea to respond almost immediately at turn seven. Onto the final lap and Bautista was all over the six-time champion, but the Kawasaki rider defended brilliantly to add to his fantastic Aragon record. Rea’s victory gave him his 21st consecutive podium at the Spanish circuit, and his 22nd in total – the most any rider has at a single circuit.

Bautista bounced back in the 10-lap Superpole Race on Sunday morning, taking the lead early-on, and opening a lead of over a second by lap four. The Spaniard took the chequered flag with a 5.141s lead over Rea, securing his first victory since San Juan 2019 (Argentina).

Toprak came home in third once again after a last lap scrap with Michael Ruben Rinaldi. Only 0.059s separating the pair after a drag race to the line, after a traditional out-braking move by Toprak at turn 15.

In the second feature race, Bautista, Rea, and Toprak would once again battle hard in the opening stages, with Rinaldi also getting in on the action. Bautista took the lead on lap three and opening up a comfortable gap after Rinaldi and Rea went in too deep at turn one, which allow allowed Toprak into third ahead of Rea.

Rea got the better of Toprak at turn one two laps later to move back into third. Rea was promoted to second on lap 11 after Rinaldi ran wide at the same corner. By this point however, Bautista was a long way up the road.

Razgatlioglu closed the gap to Rinaldi in the closing stages of the race, with an unsuccessful move coming at T16-17, where Rinaldi defended around the outside to maintain position. The 2021 champion made his move stick at turn one on the following lap, but despite his best efforts, the Turkish rider could not catch Rea and had to settle for third once again.

Bautista crossed the line to take his 18th WSB victory and the championship lead for the first time since Misano in 2019 – a gap of 1022 days. Rea’s second position secured his 175th podium as a Kawasaki rider, and he now sits three points behind Bautista. Toprak is a further 15 points adrift in third.

Elsewhere, Rinaldi sits fourth overall after finishing fourth in all three races at Aragon. Alex Lowes bounced back from a DNF on Saturday to finish sixth and fifth in Sunday’s races, with Axel Bassani also enjoying a much happier Sunday on his Ducati, taking a seventh and sixth in Spain.

2021 Rookie of the Year Andrea Locatelli finished fifth in Race One and the Superpole sprint race, but a crash in Race Two saw the Italian limp home in 19th. Team HRC rookies Xavi Vierge and Iker Lecuona couldn’t be separated on the circuit for most of the weekend, with Lecuona sealing a best Honda result of sixth in the opening race. Vierge’s best was seventh in the same race.

Loris Baz was by far the most competitive BMW rider on his Bonovo Action machine, taking seventh in the final race of the weekend. Garrett Gerloff secured a best result of ninth (x2) on the GRT Yamaha.

For Scott Redding, it was a debut to forget on the factory BMW M1000 RR. The Brit was off the pace across the weekend and was unable to match stand-in teammate Illia Mykalchyk.

Redding finished 15th in race one, improving to 12th in the sprint race before retiring from last position in Race Two after appearing to be unable to stop the bike on the brakes.

“In the last race of the weekend, I just had no grip, the brakes where not working so well and the engine overheated,” Redding explained. “That is just how it goes. There is not much more to say. We need to work, understand and try to come back stronger because we don’t deserve to be in this position.”

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Josh Close

By Josh Close

Sports Reporter and fan of all things motorsport.