Even pushing aid is of no use to Toprak Razgatlioglu (Yamaha R1), despite his extremely aggressive driving style and absolutely good material, as in the previous year against the world championship leader from Spain. Because the Ducati Panigale V4R has been protected by FIM and Dorna since its introduction and has been approved with a significantly higher maximum speed than his competitiors, Alvaro Bautista also benefits from an almost unbeatable advantage in acceleration and top speed thanks to its low weight. The little Ducati factory pilot is currently winning practically at will without taking any great risks.

Questionable scenes and reports about the incidents in Catalonia

What we found most interesting on Saturday was how most journalists read about Alvaro Bautista’s victory in the first race. There was almost unanimous reporting of a lead of a good 8 seconds when he crossed the finish line. The fact that the little Spaniard crossed the finish line more than 11 seconds ahead of his closest pursuers in the penultimate lap due to the superiority of his Ducati Panigale V4R was kept secret as much as possible. In terms of sport, WorldSBK has become a farce, which unfortunately could already be seen in 2019. Only because the Spaniard parted ways with Ducati and only returned two years later after his adventure with Honda did his dominance only continue from last season. How much the highly questionable interpretation of technical regulations by the FIM matters can be seen at a glance when comparing the results with his winless time at the world’s largest manufacturer Honda. Hence the question dear friends: If an athlete only takes ninth place in the world championship in 2020 on competitive material and only comes tenth in 2021, was he therefore doped for his title the year after?

WorldSBK 2023 gets underway in Montmelo with the local hero pictured right on his controversial Ducati Panigale V4R. It is more than questionable why almost all reporters only speak of his quality as a driver and not the additional performance of his motorcycle when it comes to his superior victories. In his two years on the Honda CBR-1000RRR he had never had a chance to win. Is the question of why really so difficult to understand and what does this have to do with sport?

To compare with athletics and cheating on previous WSBK heroes

When Florence Griffith-Joyner went from an average sprinter to the dominant figure in track and field almost overnight in the 1988 season, the rationale for this was perfectly clear to anyone with a brain. Her world records from that year still stood three and a half decades later and the athlete, who died early, was never denied. With Alvaro Bautista, a driver became world champion in the 2022 season, who had only achieved two third places on Honda in the two previous years. This prevents neither commentators nor a majority of pundits and fans from cheering Alvaro Bautista as a sensation for every win. We are happy to give it to the Ducatisti, who were anything but spoiled for success for many years before 2019. Nevertheless, it would be much easier for many to cheer and celebrate his successes with the Spaniard if they came about in a fair way. But there are currently justified doubts and not for the first time FIM and Dorna play a highly dubious role. The manufacturers actually decided to introduce a minimum weight for rider and machine in a democratic vote, as in WorldSSP 600. But Dorna boss Ezpeleta and FIM boss Viegas overturned this decision in a highly undemocratic way using their right of veto. This is a real sports scandal.

“King Carl” Fogarty on Honda – just like Jonathan Rea before his Kawasaki time, the Englishman was also successful on the Japanese motorcycle several times, including his double victory in Assen in 1996 and two more triumphs (race 2 in Hockenheim/D and the first race in Monza that year) prove impressively. But like the Northern Irish, it was never enough for a world title. Bautista’s meager successes on the Honda CBR-1000RR-R (third place each in 2020 and 2021), on the other hand, have already been equalized by his successors Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge.

The open question about Bautista’s strange increase from 2022
Everyone seems to want to forget why he was never able to fight for victory on the Honda, which is by no means slow. But according to the stats, the little Spaniard now has 43 wins in WorldSBK to his credit. Nobody seems to care that the sprint races are counted in full, in contrast to MotoGP. Just like the fact that the former heroes like Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss, Troy Corser, Colin Edwards, “Nitro Nori” Haga and many others are literally cheated of their achievements. Because in her time there were only 2 races per weekend and no sprint races, which have accounted for a third of the number of World Championship races since 2019. But there are only half points and only for the 9 highest classified pilots. Above all, there was always a majority of drivers who were eligible for victory. We are a long way from that on most routes since 2022 at the latest. Suddenly, with Bautista, a pilot has been beating competitors who had outclassed him during his time at Honda.

Three-time WorldSBK World Champion Troy Bayliss (Xerox Ducati) is a near-series World Championship icon – but on paper his performances against a little Spaniard named Bautista all but pale in comparison. That is more than questionable and the Australian has to console himself with the fact that in 2006 he was the only WSBK World Champion to have also won a Grand Prix. But from the point of view of the experts, a Bautista will not be able to measure himself against his performances in WorldSBK for a long time. For more on the earlier years of the Superbike World Championship see our richly illustrated history.

The FIM measure primarily hits the wrong people

Even alibi exercises by FIM with a ridiculously small reduction in the maximum speed of the Ducati Panigale V4R by a ridiculously low 250 rpm do not change their superiority. At least this applies to the factory machine, while this measure obviously causes a lot of damage to private teams. When comparing last year’s results for Philipp Öttl (GoEleven Ducati) and Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing Ducati) with 2023, it is immediately apparent how poorly the two did this time in Barcelona. Back then, just like this season in Phillip Island (Australia), Jonathan Rea looked old on the straights and in acceleration, sometimes against the private drivers of the Reds. In 2022, Bassani fought at eye level with Jonathan Rea on the Circuit de Cataluña and Öttl did sensationally well with sixth and seventh place. But this time there was little sign of that and only the Italian made it into the top ten in 6 races this year. On the other hand, the superiority in acceleration and top speed of the light Bautista did not change at all, even with a maximum speed of 250 rpm less. We had already pointed this out before the races in Catalonia and unfortunately we were right.

Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) is currently the No. 2 in the Ducati factory squad and we’d bet he stays that way. Two laps before the end of race two, the Italian was still around 3 seconds ahead of Toprak. However, the Turk saw the checkered flag just ahead of him and everyone is wondering how something like this can be possible without Rinaldi deliberately slowing down to intentionally let the Yamaha spearhead pass. The Ducati pilot could have successfully prevented a further reduction in the maximum speed that threatened after lap 6, because not two Ducatis won, but only one. For this reason, many in the paddock are rumored to have a stable order from the Reds.

The 2023 world champion is already as good as certain

In contrast to the glorious years 2015 to 2020 of Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki, the world championship, which many observers now see as manipulated, has several blemishes. The most important of these is the fact that a pilot can become a serial winner without having to fight hard for it. Mainly related to his lone lead in the intermediate classification after 4 of 12 laps. If you also consider that Bautista is unlikely to face any serious resistance in Portimão, Aragon or San Juan, boredom sets in. Because the three routes mentioned all have endlessly long straights and he used to dominate there almost at will on the Ducati, the last 3 laps are under a bad star for his competition. Therefore, after the first third of the season, hardly anyone should seriously bet on another world champion than the reigning one.

Ducati veteran and current Riding Coach Chaz Davies 2019 on the Ducati Panigale V4R in front of Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) and the two Yamaha aces Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes photographed by us in the Curva Tosa. Not in the picture is the then world championship leader Alvaro Bautista, who suffered serious defeats on the driver’s track near the Ducati factory in Borgo Panigale (Bologna). At that time, his English teammate beat the Spaniard for the first time since the introduction of the V4 Ducati. At this traditional circuit, the Autodromo Dino e Enzo Ferrari, Bautista’s opponents may have the best, if not the only real chance of victory, as long as he doesn’t crash like he did in the Mandalika sprint race this season.

Unless otherwise stated, this applies to all images (© WorldSBK).