Bautista “proud” to pave way for Spanish riders to join WSBK
Former Suzuki, Gresini and Aspar racer Bautista initially blew the field away on his arrival to WSBK in 2019, winning a record 11 races on the trot at the start of the season with Ducati before ultimately finishing second in the championship to Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea.
The WSBK has grown in stature and since Bautista’s stellar rookie season, with the likes of Scott Redding, Jonas Folger and Tito Rabat all making a similar switch, directly or indirectly, from MotoGP.
Next year, KTM exile Iker Lecuona and Moto2 rider Xavi Vierge will race for the Honda team that the Spaniard is leaving in favour of return to Ducati, further expanding the list of ex-MotoGP and Moto2 contingent in WSBK.
Bautista says he is “proud” to have played a role in enticing more riders from his homeland to WSBK and in doing so potentially help end a long period of British domination of the series.
“I think it would be good to have more Spaniards here because this championship is practically only British riders,” said the 36-year-old.
“There have been Spanish riders, [Carlos] Checa won the world championship [in 2011] but it was many years ago. It was another era. Let’s say that modern motorcycling has been led by British riders in this championship.
“I am proud of what I did two years ago because I think that especially for Spain I opened the doors of this championship in the sense that before I think that it was not valued as it should be valued, and now they see it with different eyes.
“I think that three years ago if you had told the riders who were supposed to come [to WSBK], maybe they would have said no and they would have looked for something else. But seeing me, maybe it is an option now].
“I am proud of what I did for Spain with this championship and hopefully I have been a little bit the one who has opened the doors for more Spanish riders to come and we can fight against the British, that right now it’s just me and they have me cornered.”
With the new CBR1000RR-R still requiring more development time before it can catch up with the opposition, Honda’s decision to drop Leon Haslam and field two rookies next year has left some observers perplexed about its choice.
However, Bautista doesn’t feel a lack of experience will prove to be a major hindrance for either Lecuona and Vierge, pointing to his own results in WSBK in his first season.
“What can I tell you? I came without experience and I was fighting for the championship [in 2019],” he said. “They have experience with big bikes, so it’s [about] how long it takes them to understand the tyres, this bike, the category.
“But today the level of Superbikes is very high and I think when these riders come, I think they can be at the level of the category.”