Bautista narrowly misses out on a top-10 in Australia
Rizla Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista had a hard-fought 10th position cruelly snatched from his grasp in the final few metres of today's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
The Spaniard got a good start from 14th on
the grid and was up into 11th by the end of lap one. As the race progressed - and the field started to spread out - Bautista found himself riding a lonely race, but never gave up the pursuit of Mika Kallio, who had had pulled a gap in-front of him. He chased and caught the Finnish rider on lap 24, but then Bautista was put under pressure from behind by Randy de Puniet. As the final lap started de Puniet had got in front of Bautista, but Suzuki's Spanish star fought back to lead the three riders on to the final straight. As the drag for the line developed, both de Puniet and Kallio drafted past Bautista, leaving the Suzuki man in 12th position, just 0.097 seconds from a thoroughly deserved 10th place.
Bautista was Rizla Suzuki's lone representative today following the withdrawal of Loris Capirossi on medical advice. The Italian injured the Adductor muscle at the top of his left thigh in a big crash in yesterday's qualifying session and was deemed unfit to ride in today's race. Capirossi immediately returned to Europe to receive further treatment and make sure the he has every chance of being fully fit for the next round.
Today's race was held in bright sunshine as the conditions finally improved after some awful weather at the Australian circuit this year. A crowd of 41,537 fans at trackside witnessed a commanding victory by home favourite Casey Stoner, as he took his fourth successive MotoGP win at the Phillip Island circuit, with a flag-to-flag victory from pole position.
Rizla Suzuki will now return to Europe for the final two races of the season in Portugal and Spain respectively. The first of this double-header will take place at Estoril on Sunday 31st October, with the final race of the season at Valencia the following weekend.
"I knew that today would be a difficult race and I would really have to ride at my maximum to get anything from it. I got a good start and felt good into the first corner, I was able to overtake other riders but I didn't really have a good enough rhythm straight away and lost some positions and time. At the end of the race I was in a great battle with de Puniet and Kallio and we fought hard with each other in the last laps. On the last lap I passed de Puniet on the outside of turn seven and I got into 10th. On the last corner I tried to close the inside line so they couldn't get past me and as I was about 40 metres from the finish line I felt the bike lose a bit of power and speed and I lost two places. I don't know if the bike had a problem or not, but today I felt like I finished 10th, but the bike was 12th! It is not a good result compared to the last races, but here we knew that it would be a difficult weekend. I would liked to have finished in the top 10 because that result for Suzuki here would have been a very good one, but at the end - because of the bike - I could not finish there. We now have to work very hard in the next two races and I can't wait to get to Portugal and get riding again to forget the result here."
Tom O'Kane -- Crew Chief Alvaro Bautista:
"In my opinion Alvaro rode to a top-10 finish today at a racetrack that we really struggle at. The fact that he got passed on the line wasn't his fault and he's done an incredible job over the weekend -- in really difficult circumstances and conditions. I think my opinion of him has gone up more this weekend than it did after his fifth place in Malaysia and I'm sure he'll bounce right back from today and be pushing hard when we get to Portugal."