The start of a weekend to remember? Bautista leads Ducati’s Indonesia charge

Friday, 11 November 2022 06:15 GMT

Four Ducatis featured inside the top ten after Friday’s running in Indonesia for what is shaping up to be a dramatic battle on the island of Lombok

Friday for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship ended with four Ducatis inside the top nine at the Pertamina Mandalika International Street Circuit in the combined classification, with Championship leader Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) leading the way after Friday’s two practice sessions. Both factory riders were in the top three on Friday, separated by around a second, while two of the three Independent Ducati riders secured a spot inside the top ten on a strong day for the Bologna-based manufacturer, who can wrap up both the Riders’ and Manufacturers’’ Championships during the Pirelli Indonesian Round.

Ducati head into the Indonesian Round knowing they can clinch the Riders’ Championship if Bautista finishes the round 62 points or more clear of rivals Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) while the Manufacturers’ Championship will be wrapped up should Ducati leave Indonesia and head to Australia with a 62-point lead over Yamaha and Kawasaki; the current gap is 65 points to Yamaha and 101 to Kawasaki.

Bautista was the busiest rider on track during the two 45-minute sessions, racking up 43 laps in total across both sessions and setting a best lap of 1’33.626s. It was the first time the WorldSBK riders took to the track with the newly-laid asphalt with times improving throughout the day as more rubber was laid on the circuit and a racing line was visibly forming as the day progressed, with Bautista finding around four seconds in FP2 compared to his FP1 time and Bautista was the only rider in the 1’33s bracket.

Explaining Friday and his thoughts on three Ducatis being in the top six, Bautista said: “Today, basically, we tried to understand the track to have some reference with a Ducati and also, in FP1, our goal today was just to put rubber on the track. In the afternoon, the track improved a little bit, but the problem is now we only have, maybe, 60cm of good track. If you make a mistake and you go out of the good line, you lose all the grip. The margin of error is very narrow. I was a bit inconsistent during practice because, when I didn’t see very clearly when I could be safe in the corner, I just rolled off and didn’t take any risks. It’s better to have more Ducatis in front because it means that maybe it’s a track that fits not so bad for our bike but, at the same time, it depends a lot. Tomorrow we will see improvement from the track and then we see the performance of each rider. This kind of weekend is difficult to understand from the first day because everything is changing a lot. You have to be focused and try to get the maximum every time you go out to the track. My feeling with the bike has been positive.”

Although he was around a second back from his teammate, Michael Ruben Rinaldi ( Racing – Ducati) was able to finish inside the top three after he set a 1’34.590s. Completing 33 laps, Rinaldi’s best time came in a short stint towards the end of FP2 where he set five laps times, with the second lap the fastest of the five; although he did set a second 1’34s lap time during this stint. It means the Racing – Ducati squad, who are looking to win the Teams’ Championship, are set up nicely with two riders in the top three for the Indonesian Round.

Discussing his plans from Friday and looking ahead to racing, Rinaldi said: “Friday has been pretty good because, last year, here I struggled a lot. The track is different, and the asphalt is new, so it was difficult this morning to get a rhythm. This afternoon was much better, so everyone pushed for lap times. I think it will important to be in front and follow the slipstream of the top guys for a podium or a top four.”

It wasn’t just the factory Ducatis who showed strong pace on Friday in Indonesia, with two Independent Ducati riders claiming places inside the top ten. Xavi Fores (BARNI Spark Racing Team), competing in his second round for the Barni Ducati team, was sixth after posting a 1’34.871s; three tenths down on Rinaldi in third place and 1.2 seconds down on Bautista’s fastest time. Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) took his spot in the top ten with ninth place, posting a 1’35.139s.

Will Bautista and Ducati be able to wrap up their titles in Indonesia? Find out using the WorldSBK VideoPass!