CW 5Q: Alvaro Bautista, GO&FUN Honda Gresini MotoGP Rider “Valentino Rossi is from the old school, but he is adapting so well to this new riding style.”

Alvaro Bautista race action shot MotoGP rider interviews usually take place behind sponsor-logoed glass doors in climate-controlled hospitality suites, not dusty lots in the shadow of the Wall of Death with Jerry Lee Lewis blaring in the background. But that was the scene at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show in Austin, Texas, where Technical Editor Kevin Cameron and I hooked up with GO&FUN Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista. Here is a portion of our conversation with the 29-year-old former 125cc world champion. Circuit of The Americas differs greatly from Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, 2 other American tracks that have hosted MotoGP races. What is your opinion of COTA’s layout?This track is more of a Formula 1 or car track than a motorbike track. The first part has too many changes of direction. There are also many slow corners with hard braking. For a MotoGP bike, this is quite difficult. You have to stop as hard as possible then start from zero. For motorbikes, it’s better to make fast corners—125 miles per hour is fast enough—and not so really hard braking. Thirty or 35 miles per hour has no meaning.” Your Honda RC213V is fitted with Nissin brakes and Showa suspension, not the more common Brembo and Öhlins package. What is the difference on the track? “I don’t know exactly. With the suspension, we have to work with my feeling. For sure, that has been tough for us, but now, I start to feel the result of all this work. It’s difficult to say if our package is better or worse. For sure, it’s different. Some tracks, we have an advantage. Some tracks we have a disadvantage. We have improved a lot, especially the second half of the last season. This season, we can fight with the top guys.” During practice, you tested Brembo brakes for the first time. Was the feeling similar to Nissin? “The difference is incredible. Brembo is totally opposite Nissin—day and night. At the moment, I cannot say which is better. Our package—suspension, frame, everything—we developed with Nissin. Brembo is more smooth. Nissin is more aggressive, maybe too aggressive. After 2 years riding Nissin, I need more than 40 minutes to understand Brembo. Also, we work with suspension with Nissin character. If we have the chance to try Brembo in a one-day test, we will have more time to test suspension.”
GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista headshot What can you tell us about the current Bridgestone slicks? “The Sepang test was the first time we tried them. It was a strange feeling because I could go faster but the feeling was worse. I felt less edge grip and more spinning, but the lap time was quicker. I cannot say if it is a better or worse tire than last year. We had to adjust, especially suspension. We received a new shock for the Sepang 2 test. For sure, it helped a lot to use the new rear tire.” How have riding styles changed? “When I was with Suzuki, I touched my elbow sometimes. But here, especially this year, every corner you touch your elbow. It’s another reference point—knee and elbow. For riders coming from Moto2, adaptation time is less than for riders like me, who came from 250. We saw that last year with Marc Marquez, the year before with Stefan Bradl, and now with Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith. A 250 GP bike was more fun to ride, but to prepare for MotoGP, Moto2 is better. “I think Dani Pedrosa is technically the best rider in MotoGP, especially with this year’s tires. We don’t have much edge grip, so we need to have more patch in contact with the ground. It’s very important to arrive at the corner, flick maximum possible then pick up the bike as soon as possible. With this bike, when you start spinning on the edge, you lose a lot. You have to flick, pick up and, at the same time, open the gas. “You cannot attack the entry of the corner. You have to anticipate, always thinking about the exit. It’s not easy. Sometimes, you say, ‘Okay, if I brake late and I enter fast…’ No way. You are doing more effort and going slower. When I rode 2-stroke 125s and 250s, the way to go faster was pushing more. But here, you have to ride smooth, like on the street, to go fast. It’s strange, but this is the way.”
Bautista has raced Suzuki and Honda MotoGP bikes. Alvaro Bautista completed just 9 race laps at Circuit of The Americas. Bautista has won 16 Grands Prix and is credited with 2 MotoGP podium finishes. GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista.

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