Alvaro Bautista to Honda is a ‘gift’ for Rea, reckons Marco Melandri

Marco Melandri doesn't see anyone strong enough to take the fight to Jonathan Rea in WorldSBK 2020 after Alvaro Bautista left Ducati for Honda

Alvaro Bautista - HRC Honda CBR1000RR-R 1200

Marco Melandri believes Alvaro Bautista’s decision to defect from Ducati to Honda during the WorldSBK off-season has been a ‘gift’ for Jonathan Rea because no other rider-team combination on the grid is capable of challenging the dominant Kawasaki rider.

Ex-MotoGP rider Bautista, who made his WorldSBK debut aboard the new Ducati Panigale V4 R last season,  took the fight to Rea from the off with a record 11 consecutive victories out of the box. However, his title challenge would collapse after a series of errors allowed Rea back into the fight and onto a fifth consecutive crown.

Bautista has now swapped to the new Honda project though the opening round at Phillip Island revealed there is still some work to do for the latest generation Fireblade to be competitive.

It’s an outcome that Melandri, who was replaced in Ducati by the Spaniard, believes is a missed opportunity for Bautista to take on Rea in 2020, adding that his other closest rivals – Toprak Razgatlioglu, Alex Lowes and Scott Redding – are quick but not strong enough to mount a title bid.

“It's a gift for Rea that Bautista moved to Honda. In combination with the Ducati, Bautista was the only driver strong enough to beat him,” he told Motorsport-Total.

“Toprak is really fast with the Yamaha. But it still has its weaknesses in the wet. At the moment, he is the most aggressive opponent

“We have to wait and see the speed of Alex Lowes in the next races. I think that the inaugural weekend in Australia did not paint a clear picture.

“Redding is going to have a good season. It will be very consistent. But he won't be able to shine like Bautista did last year."