Alvaro Bautista on the seat of his trousers – this is certainly not how the Spanish midget would have imagined his conclusion to Round 7 of WorldSBK at Imola. Despite numerous advantages after the victory on Saturday, the Ducati rider suffered a sensitive defeat in the sprint on Sunday morning and now he suddenly felt reminded of his error-ridden 2019 season.

Toprak wins third sprint of the season

The day before, the Turk’s disappointment was clearly visible that he still has to wait for a “real” race win after race 1 in Imola. The sprint that is decisive for the starting grid in the second run is not a full-fledged race, which can also be seen from the more than halved points and the lack of a podium and the absence of the champagne shower. However, FIM, Dorna and almost all journalists still make the mistake of counting victories in the Tissot Sprint Race as race victories over the full distance. Quite different in MotoGP, where the status of a Grand Prix victory remains untouched. There, the sprint race, which was newly introduced in 2023, will even be held over 12 laps (at the Sachsenring there were even 15) and, as in the WSBK, only half points are awarded and only up to 9th place. Toprak didn’t care, he wanted to grab the only chance of victory of the Imola weekend at all costs on Sunday morning, and so he fought with a knife between his teeth to at least beat Bautista in the sprint. The fact that he drove across the forbidden green area of the track several times, which should have resulted in a three-second time penalty, seemed to make no difference to anyone, including the FIM stewards.

A flawless label fraud, which the officials of FIM and Dorna, as well as the majority of journalists, also practice. The only thing that is true is that Toprak finished in the top 3 for the 100th time after the first race in Imola on Saturday. In the sprint race, which almost everyone mistakenly counts, there is no podium at all and Toprak Razgatlioglu (left of the board) is quite right about that, as a devout Muslim he always runs away before champagne is splashed. However, this is never the case in the sprint races and, like in MotoGP, there are only half points here. Above all, they are not counted there like Grand Prix results, which should actually be correct and which means that the statistics are not distorted in the way that practically everyone in the WSBK does.

Alvaro Bautista – a very bad loser

In the first race, the Spanish midget won at will and the commentators, like all spectators with the naked eye, noticed how much better it was able to accelerate out of tight corners like the Tosa compared to its competitors. There is currently no sign of the maximum speed reduced by the FIM commissioners in 2023 in two ridiculously small steps of just 250 rpm each. However, this was foreseeable, as the FIM had punished Kawasaki in their best times with 500 rpm less for Rea’s driving superiority. After second place in the sprint race, Bautista turned out to be a very bad loser. The reigning world champion and current world championship leader (with a huge lead over Razgatlioglu as the next pursuer) cheekily claimed after his clear defeat against the Turk that he had better acceleration on his Yamaha R1 than he had on the Ducati Panigale V4R. Such lies are not worthy of a reigning world champion! In 2020 and 2021 on the far from slow Honda CBR-1000RR-R, everyone could see just how good Bautista really is when not on the superior Ducati. Two third places and ranks 9 and 10 in the World Championships were the greatest feelings for Alvaro at the time.

While Johnny Rea (Kawasaki) only finished fourth this time behind local hero Andrea Locatelli (Yamaha), two other Italians, Rinaldi and Bassani, took places 5 and 6. Scott Redding on the best BMW only got 9th place behind Alex Lowes and Danilo Petrucci one more point. Over the full distance, the fast Englishman would have been rewarded with at least 7 points, which not only underlines the sporty lower value of the Tissot Sprintrace compared to the runs over the full distance.

Bautista crashes in heat 2 – finally a fight for the win

Never in the history of WorldSBK has a rider won all races (over the full distance, the Tissot Sprintrace was not available before 2019) of the first seven rounds and our forecast that it would happen due to the unbearable heat in Italy was only in Run 1 their confirmation. Already from the first lap at Phillip Island there was fear that Ducati would dominate, but Alvaro Bautista’s victory this season in such an undisturbed manner is a slap in the face for the Superbike World Championship and its fans. In the second race on Sunday, however, the Spaniard flew out while in the lead due to a mistake in the first chicane. This made it possible for the first time this season to fight for victory in a full-distance race. Unsurprisingly, the winner of the sprint race in the morning, Toprak, also won in the afternoon. Axel Bassani underlined with P2 on the private Ducati in front of Kawasaki ace Jonathan Rea that the reduction of the maximum speed of the Panigale V4R by the FIM stewards is just a drop in the bucket.

Start of the second run of the WSBK from Imola, which was shortened to 15 laps due to the murderous heat in Emilia Romagna. In the middle of the picture with number 1 Bautista who fell after a few hundred meters and on the right behind Johnny Rea (Kawasaki, with the number 65) and number 28 Bradley Ray (Yamaha), who would go on to have the best WorldSBK race of his life to date.

The tops and flops of Imola’s second race

Behind the local heroes Loatelli (Yamaha) and Rinaldi on the factory Ducati, sixth place for Bradley Ray on the private Motoxracing Yamaha R1 was the sensation of the day. The 2022 British Superbike Champion (also on Yamaha) left behind the likes of Loris Baz, Scott Redding (both BMWs), GP winner Danilo Petruci (Ducati), both factory Honda riders, Remy Gardner and Dominique Aegerter on their semi factory Yamaha’s itself. The latter disappointed himself and his fans with P12 after Donington, unfortunately also in Imola, and has to hope for improvement in Brüx (Czech Most) in two weeks. A total of 6 drivers missed the chequered flag and unfortunately once again Alex Lowes was one of them after a crash in turn 7. The fact that Bautista’s lead in the intermediate classification of the world championship is only 70 instead of 95 points over Toprak shouldn’t be a problem for the Spaniard. At least in Aragon, Portimão and San Juan (Argentina) it is almost unbeatable due to its advantages in acceleration and top speed compared to the competition.

Manzi continues to dominate in WorldSSP 600 race two

In the former team of two-time WSSP World Champion Dominique Aegerter, Stefano Manzi obviously feels as comfortable as a fish in water. On the Ten Kate Yamaha R6, the fast man from the nearby seaside resort of Rimini also won race 2 in a superior manner. World Championship leader Nicolo Bulega on the Ducati Panigale V2 was undamaged with P2, and his compatriot and brand colleague Yari Montella ensured an all-Italian podium. After P2 in the first race on Saturday, Marcel Schrötter on the MV Agusta F3 800 RR finished behind Spaniard Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki ZX-6R), Rafaele De Rosa (Ducati), Jorge Navarro and Valentin Debise (both Yamaha) this time only aft. Because Federico Caricasulo (Ducati) crashed like in the first race, the German remained third in the World Championship. After Imola, Bulega’s lead in the world championship was reduced to 41 points over Manzi.

No fewer than 13 riders missed the chequered flag in the second race at Imola, compared to ten in the first race on Saturday. With 283 points, Bulega leads the intermediate standings ahead of Manzi (242), Schrötter (184), Caricasulo (156) and Sofuoglu (97) before heading to the Czech Republic for the eighth round of the 2023 Supersport World Championship.

The world championship is so good as decided

The boredom at the races is of course also reflected in the intermediate rankings for the World Championship. Because the Ducati Panigale V4R is hardly able to brake at all with 500 rpm less maximum revolutions, Bautista will continue to dominate at will on most of the remaining racetracks on the calendar. Only in Most and if it should rain, then in Magny-Cours, will the rivals of the reigning world champion still have a chance of winning. In this respect, what we emphasized much earlier in the season applies: Only a fall resulting in injury can separate Bautista from his second title in a row. However, due to the drastic superiority of his MotoGP replica, its sporting value is as good as non-existent. Unless FIM and Dorna reverse their preference for Ducati, some manufacturers will sooner or later exit WorldSBK. In addition, various organizers will have to complain about painful declines in visitor numbers. Despite Ducati’s dominance, the stands in Imola were more than half empty even on Sunday. This was probably also due to the salty prices of the Italians.

Toprak Razgatlioglu (Yamaha) as overall winner of Imola ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Ducati) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki). Only in the first race on Saturday did these three pilots stand together on the podium, after which there should be some surprises on Sunday. The scheduling of round 7 in Imola in midsummer was absolute nonsense, but the fans are now used to this from the FIM and Dorna.

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