This weekend saw Round 4 of the Motul World Superbike Championship arrive in the United Kingdom and with it a chance for RICH Energy ambassador, Alvaro Bautista, to make up ground in the World Championship after a difficult time in Misano last time out. A favourite track of the Spaniard’s, Donington Park is somewhere that Bautista enjoys racing and was looking forward to making more progress on the Honda CBR 1000 RR-R Fireblade around the Leicestershire circuit.

Friday Free Practice was a chance for the team to put data into practice after a test at Navarra in Spain after Misano that helped with both track familiarity and more testing time for the always-developing Honda. We spoke with Alvaro on Friday night and his frustration was plain to see as he feels the bike hasn’t progressed too far since last season, but other teams have. The gap to the front runners remains fairly constant but there are now more riders between them which makes results look worse than the previous season.

Saturday’s qualifying session was a wet affair after a morning deluge had soaked the circuit, something the former MotoGP rider was anticipating but hoping for it not to happen, this is England after all. A best lap of 1’43.625 was only enough for 16th on the grid and a sixth row start for the opening race of the weekend later that afternoon.

As race time came around the track was damp but drying and it was all to play for as the lights went out for Race 1. From his sixteenth-place start, Bautista had carved his way to twelfth by lap two and continued to push to catch the riders ahead, however, that was as far as he’d get as the gap ahead was too wide to bridge before the end of the race, coming home in a creditable 8th place, narrowly losing out on 7th in the closing stages.

Sunday was a brighter affair as the fans lined the banking and cheered on their heroes; it wasn’t a capacity crowd, far from it, but those in attendance did a great job in supporting the riders over the weekend in some typically English summer weather – baking hot on Friday followed by heavy rain showers and the odd thunderstorm across Saturday and Sunday! Sunday’s 10-lap Superpole race was one to forget for Alvaro Bautista as he and his crew made the wrong tyre choice for the rapidly drying circuit and limped home in 15th place.

Another start from sixteenth on the grid for Race 2, the third race of the weekend, wasn’t what Bautista or the team wanted but due to the difficult Superpole race, it was as you were from Race 1. Another strong start saw the former 125cc World Champion carve his way through the lower order to latch on to the coattails of the top ten in 12th before one final push elevated him to 10th to salvage another top ten for the weekend.

After race 2, the Rich Energy man said, “Overall, it has been a tough weekend. On Friday we tried something different with the set-up just to verify a few things and collect some information, but it didn’t work as we’d expected so we went back to a more base set-up. Then yesterday, mixed weather conditions limited the time we had available to define the best set-up. In the end, our best day in terms of feeling with the bike was today, but our gamble with rain tyres in the sprint race didn’t pay off. In Race 2 we actually improved our pace over the course of the 23 laps and were able to achieve a top ten finish, but honestly this isn’t what we are aiming for. We need to improve from here on in, because we really want to be doing better of course.

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