A good start and strong pace in the first of the three WorldSBK races at Donington Park made for Alvaro Bautista’ that saw him climb from sixteenth on the grid to eighth across the line.
After using the morning’s fully wet free practice to prepare in case of similar conditions come the races, Bautista lined up for the Superpole qualifying phase, which also ran on a wet track. In what was to be his only flying lap, Haslam set the fastest time early on before a crash forced him to return to the pits and sit out almost the entire session. Alvaro qualified sixteenth with a time of 1’43.625 that guaranteed him a sixth row start for the pair for the first of the weekend’s races.
The first 23-lap race got underway at 2pm local time on a damp track that dried rapidly throughout the race. Bautista opted for slick tyres, as did the rest of the Superbike field. From sixteenth, the Spaniard made up two places over the course of lap one and was up into twelfth by lap two. Continuing to gain ground, Alvaro had climbed to seventh by lap sixteen, but was unable to make further progress due to the gap that had opened up between himself and those immediately ahead of him. Bautista closed the weekend’s first race in a solid eighth place.
“Race conditions were very tricky today, especially in the early stages, as the track dried out. Like everyone else we opted for slick tyres because you could tell the weather was improving. Because I started so far back, I had to be very careful with overtaking early on, because in some sectors there was only a narrow dry line. However, little by little I found good feeling and, in the end, it turned out to be not a bad race, at least in terms of the positions I made up and the data collected. We started the weekend with a different set-up in terms of weight distribution to try and understand a few things but today we ultimately went back to a setting closer to the one we’ve usually used this year. Let’s see what the weather will be like tomorrow. In the very wet conditions we had this morning, I felt OK, so we’ll see what we get.”