The Superbike World Championship goes on vacation with Johnny Rea at 81 points ahead of Alvaro Bautista. If we were to even just have thought of this a month ago, they would have said we were nuts. Instead, the day after the Laguna Seca round, this is the reality of the facts with which the Spanish rider has to deal.
Unfortunately for Bau Bau, it's not a nightmare from which he can wake up and say "I had a bad dream". Instead, it's the hard truth he has to face during an almost two-month long break. Sixty days during which he'll will have time to relax but, at the same time, reflect and understand, perhaps even kicking himself. Since this is a full-scale suicide attempt and there is no other way to define his debacle.
The numbers say it all, with Aruba's rider relying on a margin of 61 points at the end of the Superpole Race in Jerez, then five crashes that compromised his ambitions, causing him to sink to 81 points from the top. Too many, really too many for one who dreamed of bringing the title back to Borgo Panigale after years of fasting and, instead, finds himself now on the chase.
So, one wonders what happened to Bautista, who suddenly became an ugly duckling. Anyone can make mistakes, but five in a row, one right after the other, are rookie numbers rather than those of a rider aiming at the derivatives world championship throne. Alvaro, who got caught up in the moment, didn't know how to settle for less, overshadowing that tenacity that was Johnny Rea's workhorse.
For someone like the Cannibal, who is used to dominating far and wide, it must have been very difficult to cash in so many blows at the start of the season, almost seeming like he's not even capable of winning a race. Instead, Rea was patient, so much so that he knew how to play attack and defense, attacking when it was time to, like in Imola, Donington, Laguna Seca, and Misano, to then take home the maximum result in the worst conditions.
It's perhaps this second aspect that Bautista missed in the first part of the season with regard to the rider from Northern Ireland who, when things went wrong, was always the first of the losers, challenging his rivals on the gap. Many second places, which initially seemed like a defeat but, in the long run, proved to be aiming for the fifth world title, with a comeback starting in Misano.
On that occasion, Alvaro had perhaps not yet understood what was going to happen, since the Cannibal was coming back as a menace, and he was more than ever willing to turn the tide. Johnny knew very well that Donington and Laguna were two races where he had to attack, without doing too much math, and so he did.
He left the UK with 24 points, then headed to the States with the objective to saddle Bau Bau with just as many, so he could go on vacation with a haul of almost 50 points. This was his plan! A margin that would have been highly considerable, for one who makes tenacity his workhorse, as we mentioned. It went even better than expected, so much so that the Spanish rider's falls gave him a score of 81 points. Even winning all the remaining races, it wouldn't be enough for the Aruba rider to secure the world title.
In this affair, which oftentimes seems surreal, there is also a contractual question that has not yet been resolved. Bautista and Ducati had chosen the States as the deadline for the renewal, but nothing has yet materialized. A situation that certainly did not help the Spanish rider, who is still waiting to understand what his future is. But then again, this seems to be a full-scale suicide. And we feel really bad about it because the world champion was ready to take over the direction at Borgo Panigale, this time more than ever, yet, he'll probably remain empty-handed this year too.