Could a 2022 WorldSBK title challenge be on the cards for Alvaro Bautista after the Spaniard claimed he’s stronger than three years ago?

Bautista, who returns to Ducati for the upcoming season, will lead the Italian manufacturer’s title challenge as he did in 2019 as a rookie. 

Bautista was third quickest behind world champion Toprak Razgatlioglu and 2019 rival Jonathan Rea during last week’s two day Portimao test, however, all signs point to the former MotoGP rider being able to sustain a real challenge. 

Although Bautista was reluctant to set goals for the upcoming season when speaking to WorldSBK.com, the Spaniard did say ‘I feel stronger than three years ago’ following his first test of 2022. 

As a rookie Bautista won 16 races, 11 of which came during the first 11 races, so if Bautista is indeed stronger than his one and only season with Ducati thus far, then a three-way title fight could be set to take place this year. 

"It’s too early to think about the goals for the season. One thing that’s true is that I feel very comfortable on the bike," said Bautista. 

"Already in November I felt really good and I enjoyed riding the Ducati again. The difference from now to three years ago, was back then I was fast but I didn’t really know why. 

"Now, I have more experience in this category, with this bike, these tyres, so I know more about everything and I feel that I’m going faster but under more control, more safe. I feel stronger than three years ago."

Along with Razgatlioglu and Rea, Bautista went underneath the official Portimao WorldSBK lap record during day two, but while his one lap ace was impressive, his long run performance was even better. 

Bautista was one of several riders to test Pirelli’s new Superpole and Superpole race tyre, the SCQ, however, his best lap came on the SCX tyre which was used throughout 2021. 

Bautista added: "We tried the new compounds from Pirelli just to give them some information about the future. In the end I did my best time with the SCX tyre, standard SCX tyre, the SCQ I don’t know very well and maybe I didn’t use all the performance of the tyre. 

"I’m quite happy about the performance of all the tyres. We gave a lot of information to Pirelli and we did a really good test."