Team HRC riders Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam were both in the battle for the podium throughout the first of this weekend’s WorldSBK races at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.
Haslam ultimately crossed the line fifth while Bautista unfortunately crashed at the last corner of the final lap while defending third place. Despite the final result, both riders put in a very strong performance and clearly demonstrated their podium potential.
After the final practice, during which both factory riders shaved a few tenths of their best times of yesterday, it was time for the Superpole qualifying phase. As usual, the times tumbled in the final seconds, Bautista recording a 1’41.013 to move up into sixth place by the end of the 15-minute session. Haslam had in fact set a very strong time earlier on in the session, but he then went one better in the final minutes with a 1’40.780 which earned him the third spot on the front row of the grid for the first races, directly in front of his team-mate on row two.
Race 1 got underway in warm and sunny conditions at 2pm local time (25°C air temp., 43°C track temp.). Leon made a good start and lay fourth through the opening turns. He then moved back into third on lap five after Rea suffered a crash. Bautista meanwhile lost ground off the line, slipping from sixth to eleventh, but soon recovered and began to work his way back up the field, ninth by lap two. Demonstrating a strong pace, Alvaro was soon able to reach Van der Mark and move into seventh. Mid-race, and while leading a very compact group of riders, Haslam was passed by two riders, one of which was his team-mate, who moved into fifth ahead of him.
Part of a chasing group made up of five riders, the Team HRC pair kept up the pace, determined to fight hard for a potential podium finish and lying fourth and fifth on lap fourteen. Haslam ultimately lost a few seconds in the last three laps to cross the line a strong fifth, while Bautista battled with Baz for third place until the very last turn when he unfortunately suffered a crash, which prevented him from scoring what was looking to be his third podium finish in a row. Both riders will be keen to exploit their clear potential in tomorrow’s races.