"In Pain" - Hidden Injury Hindered Bautista's Sepang Performance
Published: 14th November 2023
Alvaro Bautista experienced a disappointing weekend in Sepang. The Spaniard says he suffered from a hidden injury.
Alvaro Bautista’s return to MotoGP as a wildcard entry in Malaysia did not unfold as he had hoped. The two-time WSBK champion arrived at the Sepang International Circuit with great expectations following positive test sessions with the MotoGP bike.
Riding a Ducati Desmosedici in Aruba.it colors, Bautista, a guest starter, faced his first MotoGP weekend since 2018.
Challenges surfaced for Bautista right from Friday, struggling to match the MotoGP’s demanding pace. After the Friday sessions, he found himself in the 22nd position, trailing the leader by around 2.5 seconds and ranking as the slowest Ducati on the track.
Qualifying on Saturday yielded no improvement, securing only the 22nd starting position, ahead of only Honda substitute Iker Lecuona.
In his inaugural MotoGP sprint, Bautista faced another setback. After 10 laps at the Sepang International Circuit, he lagged more than 3.5 seconds per lap behind the winner, Alex Marquez. Even the crashed Marc Marquez managed to finish the sprint ahead of Bautista.
The Sunday race continued the disappointing trend for Bautista in the Malaysia Grand Prix, finishing last, with only Taka Nakagami behind him due to a crash. Bautista’s gap to the race winner, Enea Bastianini, was a substantial 53.5 seconds after 20 laps.
Interestingly, Bautista disclosed post-race during his media briefing that he had been contending with a neck injury throughout the weekend, significantly impacting his performance.
“I had a problem all weekend but didn’t want to accept it,” explained the Spaniard. Referring to a previous fall during the World Superbike test in Jerez, he stated, “I had a bad crash in the Jerez test. I hit my head, and since then, I’ve had problems with my neck.”
This injury particularly affected him in left turns. “On Friday, I immediately noticed that I had no strength, especially in left turns. I couldn’t ride the way I wanted to. I’m a bit frustrated because I couldn’t give my maximum.”
Despite the challenges, Bautista ruled out rejecting Ducati’s wildcard offer. “At that moment [of the fall], I had pain, but it was relatively normal, nothing special. I need to check now if everything is okay.”
The winter break now begins for Bautista. The reigning World Superbike champion will continue racing for Ducati in the upcoming season, aiming to defend his title. The WSBK season opener is scheduled for February 25, 2024, in Australia.