Alvaro Bautista's podium with Honda HRC at Aragon is one that tastes of victory. In fact, during the fourth round of the SBK world championship season, the Spanish rider took advantage of the work done by the Japanese technicians on his CBR 1000 RR-R Fireblade, conquering the first podium in SBK for the Japanese manufacturer since Magny-Cours 2016 with Michael Van der Mark.
“My chances of being on the podium today? So-so,” Alvaro told us immediately after the celebrations - I was lucky to have a technical problem here at Aragon because we have a lot of data on this track and the only concern that we had was the choice of tyre. The bike has good potential but it still needs to be sorted out and when we do it correctly it will be ready to win the world championship but at the moment it obviously isn't”.
This podium came with the SCX tire, which Alvaro uses for almost all the racing sessions and which the other riders avoid due to the very high wear. Does this mean that the Honda as well as being very strong on the straight is also kind to the tyres?
“I feel very comfortable with the SCX, I can manage it, not let it drop too much (even if the degradation is greater than the SC0) and also it has good performance. With that tyre I gain more than what I lose and therefore I chose it for the race today too. Last year (with the Ducati, Ed.) I tried it a couple of times and after a few laps it wore out, it would have been crazy to use it in the races but with this bike and with these conditions I can do it. This SCX helps us find the right grip which is what we need to ride the Honda at its best ”.
Yesterday you told us about your efforts in riding the bike in the middle of the group. What changed today? Did you find the right way for the technical adjustments to the electronics you were talking about yesterday afternoon?
“Yes, we mainly worked on the engine braking. I suffered a lot yesterday, especially in the first laps because at the moment I have to ride this bike aggressively forcing entry. In the Superpole Race I took a risk in the first corner and went wide and managed to put myself in a good position and stay with the group. The good job done in this morning's race also helped me in the afternoon, I was more confident ”.
In Race 2, then, all the efforts made came good and all the small changes on the bike affected your performance.
“In Race 2 it was easier because I was starting further ahead and I didn't have to ride together with many other riders. I tried to manage at the beginning but if I had done it too much, I would have gone slow and I preferred to push to stay in the leading group. I did the whole race at 100% and in the end the tyres had dropped a bit, at which point I was more concerned with maintaining the gap from those behind me rather than trying to catch those in front.”
What are the strengths and where do you still need work on this Honda?
“This bike is strong even under braking, today I was able to brake the way I like, we are not just all about pure speed. We lose a lot in corners and exits especially in comparison to the Yamaha. There are no big points to improve, they are just small areas to work on ”.
Next week you will be racing again in Aragon, what do you expect?
"Next week the goal remains to always improve".
But "improving" after a podium means victory ...
“At the moment we are not ready for the victory, we still have to take too big a step. I still run the whole race at 100%, while to try to win you need to keep something in your pocket, to control the situation and the tyres, and at the moment I don't have anything in my pocket. I don't think next week we will find that 1% that will allow us to win, it seems like nothing but it is actually a really big improvement "
After the first race of the season at Phillip Island when did you think the first podium would come?
“During the lockdown I didn't think about bikes. I was at home and enjoyed the family. When we started again in Barcelona it was quite strange because I felt the bike very familiar. It was as if I recovered, the sensations were not bad. I wasn't thinking about the podium, I just wanted to improve the bike. This third place is not a surprise, because I always race to the maximum and Honda has worked very well to develop the bike, but I did not expect it so soon ”.