Still a long way to go? The reasons why Bautista won’t defeat Rea now

A look at the form book - and some number crunching - reveal reasons why Alvaro Bautista WON'T win the WorldSBK Championship now

When Alvaro Bautista ceded the lead to Jonathan Rea at the start of race two in Assen – round four of the 2019 World Superbike Championship – there remained a predictable inevitability about what seemed likely to follow next. 

Despite slipping behind his determined rival, we expected Bautista to simply regroup, calmly follow Rea as the four-time WorldSBK champion pushed his Kawasaki to the limit to wring every last ounce of speed from the ZX-10RR, and choose his moment to pounce again. This was a case of when, not if. 

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Bautista subsequently passed again on lap six and disappeared into the distance to reel off his 11th victory in 11 races, in turn breaking his own newly-achieved record for consecutive wins. 

If Rea couldn’t keep Bautista behind at Assen, where the Panigale’s admittedly clear speed advantage didn’t quite have the same potency then what chance did he have anywhere else?

Fast-forward three months and how different things look in the World Superbike Championship…

After nine rounds and 25 races, Rea is taking a huge 81-point lead over Bautista into the summer break knowing he need only focus on being himself to walk away with a record – and initially unlikely – fifth WorldSBK Riders’ Championship.

How did it all go wrong for Alvaro Bautista

The swing between Bautista and Rea is remarkable.

When Bautista reeled off that 11th win, instead of considering Rea as having a chance at all, there were those asking to whether it was possible Bautista could win ALL races this season - no mean considering the move to swell the racing programme to three – rather than two – races per weekend.

Whilst Rea put paid to that instantly with his first wins of the year at Imola, two more wins at Jerez had bulked Bautista’s lead to 61-points and there seemed little chance of it coming down significantly.

Then he fell during the second race at Jerez. And again in Misano, which all but negated his 14th – and most recent win – during the Superpole Race. And again at Donington Park. 

Then Laguna Seca. Three races, not a single point.

Only 10 races, but five failures to score (six if you count two points for a 14th he achieved) coupled to seven wins for Rea have turned the title battle from red to green.

How bad is it for Ducati?

The statistics make for some depressing reading for the Ducati rider. In those 10 races, he has scored 52 points to Rea’s 194. That’s a swing of 142 points that leaves him 81 points adrift.

To put into context, Loris Baz – who only his made his debut with the Ten Kate Yamaha team at Jerez – has scored 72 points by comparison during that period. His team-mate Chaz Davies scored more points at Laguna Seca alone (54 points)

If the season started in Jerez, he’d be ninth n the standings.

Of course, it cannot be forgotten that this is a rider that won an extraordinary 11 races on the trot, so with 12 races of the 2019 WorldSBK season remaining, it is indeed plausible that Bautista can bounce back in devastating style.

Is it too late for Bautista to catch Rea?

However, here is the big issue for the Spaniard… it is no longer down to Bautista to win the 2019 WorldSBK title.

While Portimao, Magny-Cours, San Juan and Qatar ahead are all tracks that suit the Ducati more than circuits of late, even if he wins each of those races, Rea can finish second to him in each of those and STILL win the title comfortably.

The margin for error between 1st and 2nd over those 9 races amounts to 52 points – a full 29 points in hand even by this equation. 

Worryingly for Bautista, even when he was winning those races, Rea was more often than not a comfortable second place behind him. In 25 races this year, Rea has finished first or second in 22 of them. When he hasn’t been second, he’s been third once, fourth twice and had a sole fifth place. Even with these results, he’d still comfortably pick up the title.

Venture back further and the figures are even more startling. In the 129 races since the start of 2015 – Rea’s first title-winning season – the Ulsterman finished off the podium just 12 times.

That’s 117 podiums in 129 races.

Bautista could end this season with 26 victories to Rea’s nine and still fall short of the 2019 WorldSBK title. 

The term ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’ has never been so pertinent.

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