WorldSBK commentator Steve English talks with Alvaro Bautista’s crew chief Giulio Nava ahead of Mandalika
The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship heads to Indonesia with Arubia.it Racing – Ducati star Alvaro Bautista facing his first Championship opportunity in Race 1 on Saturday. So, what better time to speak with his crew chief, Giulio Nava, about the challenges of the Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit? The 4.32km circuit only joined the WorldSBK calendar 12 months ago but the island venue made it a favourite with the touring paddock. In terms of the layout, there are 17 corners and quite the mix of slow and fast sections.
“Mandalika is a nice, flowing circuit with a little bit of everything,” said Nava, with one year of experience at the track. “It's a circuit that has some fast parts and some first gear corners, so you need to set the bike up well for this. As an engineer, I like this challenge to make a well-balanced bike. In the final part, from Turn 15 onwards, is one of the most important areas on the track because you need a bike that can trail brake deep into the corner but also you need good edge grip to pick the bike up on exit. I think this is the most important part of the track.”
Earlier this year, the track itself was one of the biggest talking points when MotoGP™ visited. A portion of the track was needed to be resurfaced, but the issue should be resolved ahead of this weekend. It does however provide a curve ball for the teams as they prepare for the weekend. “In the wet conditions last year, the grip was very good but now we have to see if the new asphalt is as good in the wet. In the dry I'm sure it will be fine but when a new surface is laid and it starts to rain, there is always a doubt for an engineer. I've no idea what to expect for this so we'll have to wait and see what the weather is like!
“Last season the track was brand new for everyone, but I think it'll be a new track again this year because of the new surface. You never know how much running it will have during the season too. For us, coming from Honda last year, it's not going to be easy. If you stay on the same bike from last year, you can use a really good reference whereas Alvaro's reference will be to the Honda from last year. He knows the track and we have some feedback from 2021 that we can work on and then try and use the Ducati data from last year to build a base setting for this weekend.”
With the title likely to be decided this weekend, Nava was keen to praise not just his rider but also the manufacturer for the work they have been doing. Following Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia’s title triumph last weekend at Valencia in the MotoGP™ World Championship, Ducati are chasing a MotoGP™ and WorldSBK title double for the first time.
“Alvaro can win the title this weekend, but we aren't focused on that. If we win the title, it will be as a result of our job for the season; we want to approach this weekend as trying to do our best. We'll count the points on Sunday evening. This season, we've done a really good job and Alvaro has been as focused and as fit as ever. He always brings a nice atmosphere into the garage. From a technical side, I couldn't be happier because Ducati has made a big effort to help us all year. So far, it's been a good season for us.
“I've been involved in motorcycle racing for many years, but I've never seen so much focus on bike performance or rider performance. There is so much talk about the job that we do but, for me, I think that everyone should focus on their own job and get the maximum out of their package. People believe that the Ducati acceleration is free of charge and that we put on Alvaro on the bike and we just perform but they don't see the hard work that Ducati give us to fine tune the package. Engine, chassis, electronics all take a lot of work to get us to this level.”
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