Alvaro Bautista found himself in yet another close battle with seven time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi
in Sunday's Aragon Grand Prix.
After clashing at Mugello, and almost colliding when Bautista fell on the opening lap in Catalunya, the pair have fought without incident at Laguna Seca, Indianapolis, Brno, Silverstone and now Aragon - often finishing just a few tenths apart.
But on each occasion, it has been Rossi who came out on top.
That was again the case at Aragon where Rossi re-passed Bautista for third on the penultimate lap, the Italian then gaining a few vital bikelengths on the Spaniard rider when he came under attack from fellow Honda rider Stefan Bradl.
At the finish line Rossi, Bautista, Bradl and Cal Crutchlow were covered by 1.7s.
“It was a great race and I had a lot of fun fighting with Crutchlow, Bradl and Rossi,” said Bautista, sixth in the early stages. “It's just a shame that I missed out on the podium again but I am happy because I fought for it until the end.
“Unfortunately I ended up getting into a fight with Bradl on the final lap and lost touch with Valentino but I have no complaints and we have to be happy with a result like this at a circuit where we have had so many difficulties in the past.”
Team manager Fausto Gresini was among those entertained by the battle.
“It was an exciting race to watch today thanks in no small part to Alvaro,” said Gresini. “He rode like a champion to recover the ground he lost at the start and to fight so hard at the end.
“It was a shame that once again he lost out to Valentino Rossi
but the series of overtakes between them was fantastic to watch and we have to give credit also to Valentino. This is what our sport is all about and we're really happy tonight so thanks to Alvaro and the whole team, who have worked so hard for this result.
Like Bautista, Bradl was also a little disappointed to see a podium chance slip away.
“Probably it was an exciting race to watch and it was fun also for me,” said the LCR rider. “Overall we had a good weekend and a good race although I lost the last-lap battle with Rossi and Bautista but I am happy anyway. Of course I was dreaming about the podium as we were fast and consistent over the three days, but Alvaro was very strong in the last lap.”
Bradl has now closed to within 21 points of top satellite rider Crutchlow, who is fifth in the championship standings. Bautista is in turn a reduced ten points from Bradl.