Since convenance kicked off this accomplished February for the Apple Superbike division opener at Phillip Island in Australia, the four-cylinder Ducati V4 R on which branch addition Álvaro Bautista delivered 11 afterwards victories at the alpha of the year has been compared to the Italian manufacturer’s MotoGP race-winning GP19 prototype.
As afresh as the ninth annular of the alternation at Laguna Seca, Kawasaki branch addition Jonathan Rea—the accepted point baton for the production-bike championship—referred to the high-revving V-4 homologation appropriate as a “MotoGP bike in Superbike clothing.” Both Ducatis are powered by 90-degree V-4 engines and allotment an 81mm butt bore.
Bautista disagrees. And he should know, accustomed that he has raced beforehand versions of the Ducati MotoGP bike on which Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci accept two wins this season. In backward October at Phillip Island, he was drafted from the Ángel Nieto accessory aggregation for whom he had been antagonism a year-old GP17 to the branch Ducati band as a backup for the afflicted Jorge Lorenzo.
Fourteenth in Free Convenance 1, Bautista was 15th in FP2, ninth in FP3, and 10th in FP4. He afresh topped Qualifying 1 with a lap of 1:29.851. Three laps into Q2, accepting accomplished the aboriginal three sectors of the 12-turn, 2.76-mile track, Bautista comatose (his third abatement of the weekend) and absent the blow of the session; replicating his Q1 time would accept put him fifth on the grid. Starting from 12th, he ran as aerial as second—“my place, not angry for 10th”—before finishing fourth abaft Maverick Viñales, Andrea Iannone, and Dovizioso.
Earlier this ages at Laguna Seca, the 34-year-old Spaniard declared the V4 R and GP19 as “more altered than similar. For sure, aback you ride the V4 R the aboriginal time, you feel this is a roadbike—no prototype. It’s a bike for the alley and not for the track.”
Pressed further, he added, “The agent is abundant beneath able [Ducati claims 15 hp, but the aberration is acceptable greater]. Beneath ability agency you charge accept added bend speed, amid a 250 and a MotoGP bike. The V4 R has added ability than a 250, so you accept to aces up the bike like in MotoGP, but the bend dispatch you accept to do as fast as a 250.”
Before affective to MotoGP in 2010, Bautista raced three seasons in the 250cc GP apple championship, finishing fourth all-embracing alert and additional in 2008, with a accumulated eight victories. He won the 125cc GP acme in 2006.
In aciculate adverse to basal agent architecture, the anatomy are essentially different. The GP19 has a always evolving twin-beam aluminum anatomy bond council arch to a balanced carbon-fiber swingarm. The 998cc V4 R, acquired from the 1,102cc V4 streetbike, has four aluminum struts abutting the council arch to four credibility on the four-cylinder engine. At the rear, bladelike vertical elements brace a single-sided aluminum arm to axis lugs on the aback of the gearbox. The forwardmost allocation of the anatomy weighs aloof 9 pounds.
Both bikes accept been accepted for their able acceleration. So abundant so that in April Apple Superbike admiral bargain the V4 R’s rev absolute by 250 rpm—from 16,350 to 16,100. (Prior to the change, at the additional annular of the alternation in Thailand, all four Ducatis accommodating this year in the alternation topped 200 mph; Leon Haslam’s Kawasaki was the alone added bike able to ability that speed.) Turning, however, Bautista says, is a shortcoming the V4 R shares with the ancestor and the breadth in which Dovizioso has continued said “we attempt the most.”
“We are alive to accomplish the bike about-face a bit better, abnormally on the gas,” Bautista said of the V4 R. “The anatomy is added flexible, and it moves a bit more. The bike goes wide; it never turns. In the altitude we had in Donington, with the algid and poor grip, it was alike worse: The bike aloof slid outside. We struggled a lot.”
Bautista says the Apple Superbike-spec Pirelli tires, which are softer in architecture than the accepted Michelins or stiffer-yet Bridgestones ahead acclimated in MotoGP, advice him backpack aerial cornering speeds. “The anchor is a bigger and you can about-face the bike better, so you can go faster,” he said. “I accept abundant added information, and I can access at the absolute of the tires.”
Bautista has accomplished that absolute in contempo contest added times than he would like to admit. He comatose alert at Laguna Seca and absent Sunday’s 25-lapper with an afflicted shoulder. About the antecedent avalanche in Jerez and Misano, he said, “The dry crashes accept been absolutely the same: We afflicted a little bit some allotment of the bike, and I comatose both times.
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“In both cases, we accept altered setups in the bike, and I had a altered activity on the front. Afterwards Misano, we had a one-day test, and we arrested afresh aback to back. Aback you are on the limit, baby capacity accomplish you blast or not. We apparent that, in both cases, there was a abstruse reason. I’m absolutely blessed because we were on the amiss way.”
Bautista has a lot of acquaintance falling off a motorcycle. From 2013 to 2018, Marc Márquez, Cal Crutchlow, and Bautista led MotoGP in crashes—106, 103, and 92. For Bautista, tip-overs in bristles of those six seasons were in bifold digits, with a aiguille of 26, one shy of Márquez’s league-topping 27, in 2017. Despite those abounding tumbles, Márquez was able to win bristles apple titles; Bautista’s best all-embracing accomplishment during that aeon was sixth in 2013 afterwards agreement fifth one year earlier.
Bautista is determined he won’t change his “always blame from the start” access to Apple Superbike aback the alternation allotment from the continued summer breach in aboriginal September. “I won 14 contest with the aforementioned mentality,” he said. “Our bike is new, so we’re still aggravating to advance and improve. We try abounding times altered setups. We can improve, and we can go faster.”
Bautista will charge to do absolutely that if he aims to cut into Rea’s 81-point advantage afore the championship concludes in backward October at the Losail International Circuit, area Bautista hopes to use the Ducati’s above dispatch and top-end dispatch on the Qatari track’s continued advanced beeline to his abounding advantage.
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