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WORLD SUPERBIKES

MotoGP exile Bautista showing his unfulfilled potential in Superbikes

Alvaro Bautista demonstrated the potential he didn't manage to fulfil during his MotoGP career on his debut World Superbike weekend, reckons Ducati general manager Gigi Dall'Igna. Bautista was recruited to join Ducati's factory World Superbike team for the 2019 campaign when he ran out of options to remain in MotoGP, having been part of the satellite Angel Nieto team in 2017 and 2018.

In 158 premier class starts, the Spaniard managed only three podium finishes and one pole, but was a regular race winner in the 250cc division and a champion in 125cc.

After topping the times in pre-season testing at Phillip Island aboard Ducati's brand-new V4 R bike, Bautista went on to dominate his first WSBK race weekend, taking a clean sweep of three wins to take an early points lead ahead of Kawasaki's Jonathan Rea. He became the first WSBK rider since Max Biaggi in 2007 to win on his series debut.

"I've known Alvaro for a long time and I've always thought him to be a great talent," said Dall'Igna, who oversees both Ducati's MotoGP and WSBK projects in his role. "I worked with him for some years in 125cc and 250cc [at Aprilia] and I have always wondered why in MotoGP he has never managed to realise the potential he has, because he is one of the biggest talents I have seen."

Bautista won the opening race in Australia by almost 15 seconds ahead of four-time WSBK champion Rea, was similarly dominant in the second full-length race and narrowly overcame Rea to win the first-ever 'Superpole Race', a 10-lap sprint awarding reduced points. Dall'Igna however remains cautious about the prospects of the V4 R enjoying success at other circuits, many of which have very different characteristics to Phillip Island.

"Honestly speaking, no," he said when asked if events at Phillip Island had made him reassess Ducati's 2019 targets. "I think we are not ready to be on the top for all the races. "We have seen our strong points, which will be important, but we also have some weaknesses that could make us suffer a bit at some tracks.

"The stability of the bike is an issue. The turning of the bike is another weak point. I think we have to play a little bit more with the set-up and find out some answers to these questions before we can be really competitive." He added: "We must keep our feet on the ground and see what happens. "It's difficult to say what are the real expectations, because the project is completely new, we are at the start and for us each race is a new challenge.

"I spoke with Alvaro, he was happy. I told him that we must pretend nothing happened and work as if we lost the race."

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