Bautista looks back on Suzuki, forward to Honda
19 November 2011
By Lisa Crouch
Alvaro Bautista's switch from Suzuki to Gresini Honda, in time for the last day of testing at Valencia, marked the final major move in MotoGP's annual game of musical chairs.
The Spaniard had spent his first two seasons in MotoGP on the GSV-R, and seemed keen to continue, but couldn't afford to let the coveted Honda RC213V ride slip away.
Suzuki subsequently confirmed its withdraw from MotoGP, after a season that began with a broken femur for lone rider Bautista during the opening event in Qatar.
"It's been a tough year," said Bautista, in an interview with Europa Press. "I did not start as expected with the fall in Qatar. Then I needed to get my confidence back. Mid season everything fell into place, I went on with enthusiasm and confidence, taking small steps forward to make the bike more competitive."
A career-best equalling fifth in the wet at Silverstone was followed by two sixth places in the dry at Indianapolis and Aragon - and was promoted to a front row start at Phillip Island - but accidents meant Bautista finished just three of the last eight races.
"In practice I was usually around sixth and seventh and I made a couple of second row starts. We lacked luck in the race, we have missed opportunities to end the year with good results. But we must be satisfied," reflected Bautista.
Ultimately, the catalyst for Bautista's departure was when team manager Paul Denning broke the news that if there was a bike available for 2012 it would be one of this year's 800cc machines, rather than a new 1000cc entry.
The number 19 told MotoGP.com: “I left Suzuki only because of the technical side, because the people there are fantastic and I'm very happy with the work I did last year and I want to say sorry to the team, but the technical plan for next year was not the best for me and I thought the best way to have a competitive bike was to change teams and I did that."
While Suzuki repeatedly deferred their decision and deadlines passed, Bautista had been linked with a seat at Tech 3 Yamaha, which eventually went to Andrea Dovizioso.
Talks were also opened with LCR Honda, who were so keen to gain Bautista's signature that they entered into a 'gentlemen's agreement' to wait for Suzuki's decision, set up by Suzuki's Project Manager.
Tragically, another door opened.
The passing of Marco Simoncelli in Sepang, where Suzuki had been due to make an announcement, meant that a bike better financed and with superior results to the LCR became available in the most tragic of circumstances.
The level of Bautista's support from Honda is yet to be revealed. Simoncelli was contracted to HRC directly and was to receive full factory support. Bautista looks unlikely to receive this as he is under contract to Gresini.
The 26-year-old is also uncomfortable with the idea of being seen as some kind of successor to Simoncelli.
“I hate to say that I inherited Simoncelli's bike," he told rtve.es. "It was a tragic accident for everyone. Gresini had two riders Marco and Hiroshi Aoyama. I will work with the mechanics of Hiroshi, not with the team of Marco. But it is true that maybe I'm here because of what has happened, but I do not take his place.”
Bautista also admits that changing teams has made setting 2012 goals harder.
"I've changed motorcycle and team, I have to start working with them, get used to the bike and change the way I ride. It is difficult to set goals. I go step by step, feel comfortable and work well with the team and do my best," he told Europapress.es
The last time he rode a Honda was back in 2005 in the 125cc class, the year before he won the championship on an Aprilia with the Aspar Team.
This week Bautista paid tribute to Suzuki, following the announcement that they will withdraw from MotoGP for at least two seasons, taking to Twitter to say that they were a great team and adding “We will miss blue bikes on the track.”