With only rare exceptions, you don’t get to the top level of motorbike racing without being fast and having proven your raciness in the lower classes. Former 125cc World Champion and 250cc runner-up Álvaro Bautista is an example of a great rider on a bike that simply doesn’t allow him to show all of his talents.
After fantastic seasons in 125s and 250s, Bautista joined MotoGP in 2010 on the struggling Rizla Suzuki team aboard a bike that was flat out uncompetitive, managing a pair of 5th places for his best results of the year. He began 2011 as the team’s sole rider by breaking his leg in Qatar and missing the first two races, returning at Estoril while still mending. Since then he has managed a variety of 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th place finished as the 800cc Suzuki shows signs of life just at it reaches the end of its duty.
Bautista is one of the class’s unsung heroes to me because for someone accustomed to fighting to win world titles, he first has the challenge of entering MotoGP to face Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa. Then he has his arch rival from 250s, Marco Simoncelli, land a ride on a factory Honda. The high costs of MotoGP mean that if he wants to be in the top class, he must ride an uncompetitive bike, and hope he proves he deserves something faster in the future.
Without exception, you don’t get into MotoGP without a strong will to win races, and we can only imagine how it must feel to take the same risks as every rider on the grid, without any reasonable expectation of winning a race. Yet Bautista remains a smiling, friendly character in the paddock, always a pleasure to encounter, popular with fans and appreciative of the support he receives. If 2012′s CRT rules help anyone, Bautista certainly deserves a chance to fight at the front after two seasons of tough luck, and riding hard for future possibilities rather than success in the here and now.
Scott Jones is a professional photographer known for his great action shots and poignant candids when covering MotoGP and WSBK racing events. You may have already seen his work on MotoMatters (they still have more calendars available that feature Scott’s work by the way). Not only do we like Scott’s shots, but he fits right in with our all Nikon-totting office. You can find him on his blog, Twitter, & Facebook.
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Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved