Alvaro Bautista has said he is “happier than before” to be switching to the World Superbike championship after experiencing the strength of Ducati’s factory team first hand at Phillip Island, where he scored a sensational fourth place in Sunday’s MotoGP race.

Deputising for the injured Jorge Lorenzo, the former 125cc world champion shrugged off three crashes over the weekend to excel in Sunday’s 27-lap race, challenging team-mate Andrea Dovizioso for a podium finish until the final lap.

Slotting into Lorenzo’s team that includes crew chief Cristian Gabarrini – a world championship winner with Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez in the past – Bautista noted the added manpower available within the factory set-up, as well as the “power” and “character” of the GP18’s engine.

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The experience confirmed to the 33-year old that he will be in more than capable hands in Ducati’s World Superbike team in 2019, where they will take on the might of Kawasaki with the factory’s new Panigale V4 Superbike.

“Things happen for a reason,” said Bautista when asked whether he considered this latest result a statement to the paddock he will depart in November. “For me to have a good bike to fight for victories – MotoGP or Superbike – is important. I know that here in MotoGP it was not possible to have a competitive bike for next season.

“So now I’m more happy than before to go to World Superbike because I know the potential of Ducati’s factory. I know that they will make a really good bike to fight for the championship there.

“I’m so confident for next season. I like to race, but also I like to win. If you don’t have a competitive bike you can’t win. I’m happy. There is no meaning where you’re racing. It’s important to enjoy it.”

On the differences between Ducati’s factory team and the Angel Nieto squad, where he has spent the past 23 months, he said, “It’s a bit different from the satellite team because in the satellite team you have just a few people working for you.

“But in the factory team you have the same people in the box but behind the box you have eight people more. And they help a lot. In this category the small details make the difference, and those small details are better in the factory team.

“Also for sure the bike is different. For me I’m very impressed of the engine, the character of the engine, the power of the engine. It’s incredible how different this bike is from the bike of last year that I’m using. The difference is quite big.”

Bautista’s fourth place was his best result in the premier class since last April. Coming home 4.072s back of race winner Maverick Viñales, the performance was the closest he has finished to a MotoGP race winner since the French Grand Prix, back in 2014.

He went on to say the possibility of securing his fourth podium finish in the premier class dispersed due to a mistake when changing gear on the penultimate lap.

“Well, I had better results in the past but for sure it’s been good,” he said. “Just to arrive for one weekend with a different bike, a different team, a different way to work, and also in this track that I’ve struggled in the past…

“Also with the three crashes I had in the whole weekend, and to recover the feeling and confidence for the race was really good. I was fighting for the podium position.

“I missed for the fight for the podium at the end because I had a problem with the gearbox. When I switched to third – because the gearbox is a bit different to what I’m using – I didn’t engage the gear and I lost the distance with both Andreas. In any case I’m happy because I enjoyed the race fighting at the front.”

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