Mission accomplished on Ducati return: Bautista crowned 2022 World Champion

Sunday, 13 November 2022 06:24 GMT

The Spanish becomes the first Ducati Champion since 2011 with his title success on his return to the Bologna manufacturer

Returning to the Racing – Ducati team after two years away proved to be a successful decision for team, manufacturer and rider as Alvaro Bautista took the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship title in 2022, three years after his maiden campaign with the team. A remarkable display of consistency intertwined with fierce battles as part of a titanic trio led to Bautista wrapping up the title a round early, doing so during the Pirelli Indonesian Round at the Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit.

BAUTISTA’S BIOGRAPHY: taking a title 16 years after the last…

Spanish rider Bautista, from Talavera de la Reina, Toledo, Spain, took his first WorldSBK title just over a week shy of his 38th birthday, with it being his second World Championship crown after the 125cc World Championship title in 2006. He moved up to the 250cc World Championship for three seasons in 2007, finishing fourth, second and fourth in the standings, before a switch to MotoGP™ in 2010. He scored three podiums and a pole in his time in MotoGP™ before a switch to WorldSBK with Ducati in 2019, where he instantly fought for the title. Taking to the Championship like a duck to water, he racked up 11 consecutive wins but finished second in the title fight. A switch to Team HRC for 2020 and 2021 proved difficult for Bautista as he took three podiums in two years, although the experience garnered in those two years helped his Ducati return, claiming his first WorldSBK crown.

THE SUCCESSFUL RETURN: one year back to claim the crown

Becoming the third different rider in three seasons to claim the title, on a third different bike and from a third different country, Bautista’s return to Ducati was successful from the start; taking second in a last-lap fight in Race 1 at MotorLand Aragon against Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) before winning the two remaining races in the first round of 2022 would set the tone for the rest of the season. 14 wins and 29 podiums in 33 races this season propelled Bautista to the top as he became Ducati’s first WorldSBK Champion since compatriot Carlos Checa did so in 2011 on an independent Ducati.

TITANIC TRIO: inseparable all season

The theme of the 2022 season was the fierce battling between Bautista, Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and this was summed up well at the Estoril Round in May, when all three races featured a last-lap showdown; Bautista claimed one victory and two podiums there. There was the Tissot Superpole Race fight between Bautista and Razgatlioglu at Portimao which will go down as one of the best tactical fights, while there was a similar fight in San Juan between the pair, also with Rea. In Race 2 at San Juan, Bautista had to fend off a charging Razgatlioglu to claim a hard-fought victory that helped him put one hand on the title.

HIGHS AND LOWS: bouncing back in style

Like every rider fighting for a Championship, there were highs and lows for Bautista. A crash at Donington Park in Race 1 led to speculation about a repeat of 2019, but he soon put those talks to bed with fourth in the Superpole Race and a second in Race 2 at a track he did not expect to be so competitive at. The other low for Bautista came at Magny-Cours in Race 2 after a crash with Rea took him out of the race; Rea was penalised for his role in the collision. On this occasion, Bautista’s bouncing back would have to wait two weeks but he did so in Barcelona has he took a triumphant hat-trick to extend his Championship lead once again in a weekend where he looked untouchable.

LESSONS LEARNED: how Honda difficulties helped in 2022

Two years at Honda helped Bautista become the title-winning rider he is today, something both he and his crew chief have made reference to throughout 2022. Bautista spoke about it in the build-up to the dramatic French Round in a feature interview, whilst crew chief Giulio Nava discussed it in the summer. More experience in WorldSBK, meaning Bautista knows the tracks and tyres more, have helped but Nava also explained why two years at Honda is helping Ducati now. He said, in July: “On that bike, it was further from the top and the bike can only provide until a certain level to be closer to the top, and at the same time he needed to train himself to stay on the limit every time. Now with Ducati, he can find the limit and he can go 3%, 4%, 5% from the limit. When he wants or needs it, he has that 5% to play with.”

THE FIRST: Panigale V4 R has its first Championship…

2022 marks a momentous moment for Ducati as they took the first title with the ‘Panigale’ moniker on one of their bikes. Introduced for racing in 2013, Carlos Checa took the 1199 Panigale to pole position in its first outing, while Ayrton Badovini claimed a podium with the bike. The Panigale R came into WorldSBK for 2015 with five wins and 25 podiums in its debut season with Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano. More wins and podiums followed but no title before the Panigale V4 R was introduced in 2019. Like its predecessor, the bike was a race winner from the start, but it would take until 2022 before it claimed a title with Bautista’s success.

Congratulate Bautista on his title success using the hashtag #TheReturn on social media, and watch the remainder of the 2022 season in style using the WorldSBK VideoPass!