The Japanese manufacturer put in its best performance of the year last weekend as Bautista finished fourth in the opening race with a charge inspired by ninth place on the grid, before overtaking Andrea Locatelli’s Yamaha. in the penultimate lap to secure the last place on the podium in Race 2.
Bautista had already scored Honda’s first grandstand of the year a week ago in Barcelona, finishing third behind championship protagonists Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu in the Superpole race.
These results mark a major breakthrough for Honda, which is battling BMW to avoid being last in the manufacturers’ standings this year.
After a tough round in Assen in July, Bautista predicted that the CBR1000RR-R would end up without a top-three finish in its second year of competition.
Bautista claims Honda’s improvement in performance over the last few rounds is due to relatively small improvements on the Fireblade, but admits there is little room to make the bike even faster for the final three rounds of the countryside.
“I think that now we are at the top of our performance with the bike, [extracting] more than that is difficult, ”said the 36-year-old.
“The good thing is that I said in Barcelona that we only work on the small details, we don’t make big changes on the bike, and at least track by track [we stay] with the same base bike, so it is easier to have a reference and to work more easily.
“So I think we increased the performance a bit. But because there are a lot of riders fighting for the podiums and the victory, you see the result from seventh to third, it’s one or two tenths per lap, it’s not more. So in the end whatever you can win you can see it more clearly in the positions. ”
Starting eighth on the grid for the second race of the weekend, Bautista wasted no time passing his Honda teammate Leon Haslam on the second lap and had beaten Rea’s Kawasaki on lap 9.
In the final stages of the race, he closed in on Locatelli for a podium place, passing him on the long left-hand corner of Turn 13 just before the start of the last lap to seal third position.
Speaking after his 27th WSBK podium, Bautista admitted he was on the verge of falling several times as he tried to exploit Honda’s superior braking performance to break through the field.
“The first round was crucial for us, I lost time [to the frontrunners] but then I was driving at a good pace, ”he said. “I saw the leading drivers, I didn’t lose distance, and even a few laps I caught up with them.
“So I felt like I was a tenth or two more than the others and I tried to overtake them and keep my pace. In the end, I had a fight with a few runners.
“I was very close to falling in a few turns because with this bike, a strong point is the braking, where I can catch up with them. So I braked harder and harder to chase them away and was about to fall a few times, but was lucky not to fall.
“In the end, another podium. I’m happy because I felt a lot better than the morning race, although the track was worse and the times were slower but compared to the others I felt pretty good.
Alvaro Bautista, HRC team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images