Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Alvaro Bautista’s & Aspar’s fantastic 2006 125cc World Championship
Time flies, especially in the MotoGP World Championship, where speed is key to survival. Today – 17th September 2016 – marks the ten-year anniversary of the first world title for the Aspar Team, a championship that was also a first for Álvaro Bautista, who next season returns to the team that was his home for four seasons.
What did the Aspar Team do differently to the rest?
I think it was the strongest team. The thing it did the best was team management. We had a few riders, all with good material, and we all wanted to win but there was a good relationship between us and Jorge kept us all calm. “You lot, you don’t fight with each other,” he used to say. There was a lot of respect between us and when one of us won, the others went to congratulate him, even though we had wanted to win ourselves. It was a very positive thing.
What did Jorge Martínez “Aspar” do for your career?
Jorge made room for me in his team at the last minute, pulling favours from friends to give me a bike and good material. He had always told me he had confidence in me but we’d never had the opportunity to work together. In the end he was able to find a space for me and he made me feel very calm. At Jerez, in the first race, I had come off the back of a very tough year on a Honda and before the race I told him: “I know I have the pace to go to the front but I don’t know what to do when I get there.” I hadn’t fought for those positions for a year and I was starting from scratch. You always imagine the race, your position, your objectives, but I didn’t know what I would do because it was new to me. He said: “Forget everything, just maintain your pace. The important thing is that you rediscover the feeling of being a lead rider.” That is what I did and I ended up with my first Grand Prix victory. Jorge has always helped me a lot, but above all he kept me calm and helped me to manage races well. For Jorge and the Aspar Team it was their first title too, so we opened a door that later many riders were able to pass through.
If you had to pick out three moments from that dream season, what would they be?
The first victory, that was the best. In 2005, at the end of the season, there were a lot of people saying that I wasn’t right, that I needed a psychologist. I knew that it was the bike that wasn’t right and the team wasn’t helping me. I told my parents that I might go to a psychologist and my father said: “Are you stupid? You need a good bike and a good team.” And then came the first race and I won, so it was very special. I also remember well the team triple podiums, in Turkey and Barcelona, along with Héctor Faubel and Sergio Gadea. And, of course, the day I was crowned World Champion in Australia was the culmination of a fantastic season.
The statistics from that season are crazy – you won the championship with three races to spare, something only Valentino Rossi had previously managed, with a record 14 podiums…
We only missed out on the podium twice – I could have won in France but the engine failed and we finished fourth, and then at Valencia I was fourth again because we were on the brand new RSA. Those two fourth places could have been two wins. Also, I was the first rider since 2002 to win back-to-back races in 125cc.
They tell you that at the start of the season…
And I don’t believe it. I would never have believed that.
When did you start to realise that you could win the championship?
At Brno. I knew we were leading but when I won there I thought that I could be champion, that I had a chance. I just took it race by race, enjoying the moment. I won the Czech GP from Kallio in the final corner of the final lap and then I started to believe I could do it. I didn’t feel any extra pressure, maybe because Jorge kept it off, telling me not to think about anything, to have fun and do my best. “Don’t worry, finish the race and that’s it,” he used to say.
When you got the call to join the Aspar Team in 2006, how did you feel?
For me it was like I went from being lost to having a golden opportunity. It is a great team, they always had good material and it was an incredible opportunity for me. Also, the way we did it at the last moment and the huge effort they made to accommodate me, because they already had four riders. We started to talk in December, Jorge asked for a few days and we closed the deal in January. He had to find the money for me to race, and look [what happened]…
What are your memories of that Australian Grand Prix?
I travelled there with the team, we were a big family. I was quite calm, I wasn’t thinking about whether I could be champion there. I knew I had a chance but I wasn’t worried about it because it wasn’t a now or never situation, it could wait until the next race. I remember the start and the red flag on the first lap because of a crash for Faubel and Gadea. I got back to the box and I had felt that the bike was running rich, so that it didn’t break down. So I said to the mechanics: “It’s not fast at all. It’s fine that we go on the safe side but let me race a little.” There was chaos in the box, it was a disaster. I sat down and looked outside of the box and started thinking about the race. I thought we wouldn’t have time to get out but, anyway, I just stayed calm and said to myself “head out of pit lane and finish wherever you finish.” In the end I had time. I felt calm in the race, got to the front and found my pace… and I won by a distance, like a lot of races that season. When I got back to the box there were people there applauding. I got the flag caught in my rear wheel. I went running up pit lane, everybody shaking my hand, whilst they brought the bike behind me. We celebrated in Australia with the team and then when we got to Spain, I wasn’t expecting anything but I have never seen so many people in Talavera as there were that day. It was incredible.
Phillip Island Win 2006 – Photo Album
Source: Aspar Media