As the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship approaches at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, teams and riders are adjusting to the number of new regulations, particularly those related to weight limits.
With pre-season testing well underway, a cloud has been looming over Reigning World Champion Alvaro Bautista, known as one of the lighter riders on the grid, and the effects of the newly imposed weight limits.
The updated rules for 2024 include weight regulations, potentially requiring the addition of ballast to a rider’s motorcycle. Bautista, during the Jerez test, discussed how the new rules would affect him, especially considering his lighter weight compared to other riders. Ducati Corse’s Technical Coordinator, Marco Zambenedetti, shed light on how both Bautista and the team are working to adapt to these regulations.
Following the post-round Jerez test in 2023, where Bautista experimented with adding 7 kilograms to the bike, Zambenedetti revealed that approximately 6 kilograms has been added for the most recent test in Jerez to comply with the weight rules. Zambenedetti mentioned that Bautista adjusted his training routine to gain more mass, emphasising the challenge of determining where on the bike to add the extra weight.
Zambenedetti explained, “It’s quite easy, we’ve added 6kg more or less. Alvaro changed his training system, tried to get a bit more mass. The point is it’s 6kg. About where is a lot more complex. We are testing something that moves. First, we’d like to give him back the best feeling. The bike isn’t last year’s bike, we must forget about this, but try to give him a ballast configuration that isn’t so bad. We are working on this. We haven’t defined it at this moment. On the other side, we’re also working on engine configuration with fuel consumption and biofuel which is another big, important area to work.”
Discussing the ongoing testing, Zambenedetti mentioned that there are two potential directions regarding the placement of ballast, but as of now, there isn’t a clear preference.
He added: “We have a lot of ideas and theories, but we are here just to test this. At this moment, we haven’t got a clear idea which is the best. Before Australia, or in Australia, we will close this experiment and we’ll start to work on a particular configuration. Today, we’re not testing both directions. We are improving a bit one direction, but we need to make a double check also in Portimao. It’s important that we have a reference at different tracks.”
The Spaniard, however, is still feeling the effects of an injury he sustained in testing at Jerez at the conclusion of the 2023 season, but was left optimistic after his most recent two-day test in Jerez.
Bautista finished the recent Jerez test outside the top ten on both days, and was down in P16 on Thursday. On the conclusion of the two-day Jerez test, Bautista provided an update on his neck injury:
Alvaro Bautista: ““After Wednesday, the thing for Thursday is that it was better physically. I felt better. Not perfect. I have some pain still when I’m riding, especially in left corners, and I’m not so comfortable but it wasn’t worse than Wednesday. It has been a bit better so that means I’m improving my physical condition. We decided to make some different setups on the bike we chose on Day 1 to see if we find some positive or negative things, like we do in a normal pre-season to make the best base possible for the beginning of the season. We tried some changes to the setup, and we decided what could be better or worse. It was positive because I could do a lot of laps, even with some pain, but the thing is I didn’t have more pain.”
Going into more depth about his training, Bautista added: “I couldn’t train well in November or December, I just tried to recover with the physiotherapist. With a nerve, it’s always very slow and you can’t do too much. You have to wait and not force it. I started my training at the beginning of the year, just a few weeks ago. At the moment, the plan was to check my physical condition on the bike. Fortunately, I can ride. Not perfectly, but I can. I hope to take another step at Portimao. After the Portimao test, we will see. There’s no real plan. We have to go day by day.”