Honda is preparing a market shake-up in SBK and has Alvaro Bautista in its sights. In recent weeks, the Spanish rider has admitted receiving a call from Tokyo, while things remained quiet on the part of Borgo Panigale.
Logically, after the many crashes of recent races, Alvaro has seen his negotiating power with Ducati diminish, but his proposal to remain in red wouldn't have been exactly off-putting. An investment that would nevertheless have paid off, because let's not forget that Bautista won the first 11 races of the year, 14 in total this season, putting the Panigale V4R up with the stars of SBK.
This presumably hasn't been enough for Borgo Panigale, because he wasn't confirmed at Laguna Seca either. It's only natural that Alvaro has started to look around while Honda seeks a top rider just like him.
While the SBK riders are on holiday this week, the same can't be said of their managers, who remain hard at work. Something has moved after the Suzuka 8 Hours and the Spaniard is increasingly tempted to give in to the flattery of Honda, with which he already raced in MotoGP from 2012 to 2014.
Also because HRC has decided to do things properly in the production-derived series. The new CBR has been lapping for months already in Japan and Honda, having tested the waters this year, wants to field a 100% factory team next year.
Only one piece is missing and that's the rider. Bautista would be ideal and negotiations are already in the advanced phase. If they pull it off, Honda would play the same trick it already played on Ducati in MotoGP with Lorenzo, snatching away a top rider.
As for the rider's team-mate, this would likely be a Japanese.
SBK is on vacation, but by the time it returns it might already be looking very different.