The new 2022 season is set to bring plenty of drama and the first wheels have turned
The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is edging closer to getting underway, with testing schedules now being undertaken. The Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto is playing host to the first test of the year, with Team HRC, Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK and more taking to the track to get back to business. Starting at 11:00 local time (GMT+1) and finishing at 17:00, it was rookie Spaniard Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) who headed a Honda 1-2 at midday, as fellow rookie teammate Iker Lecuona lay second. There was a brief Red Flag just before 14:00 but not for a crash; marshals were checking track conditions at Turn 8.
HRC AHEAD: Vierge leads the way, KRT stay in the box
Team HRC were hard at work throughout the morning, getting back to track action in their first public test, having test privately behind closed doors back in December at Jerez. Xavi Vierge set the benchmark, whilst Lecuona was less than a tenth adrift. Both riders commented similar things to Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam last year, giving Honda a good direction to follow. Both riders were looking at all areas of the bike, from turning and handling to electronics and traction control, whilst also looking for more grip and enhancing their engine-braking. Vierge’s time of a 1’41.248 doesn’t compare with the December test, with time to find on Jonathan Rea’s unofficial 1’38.831.
One of the main stories from the opening hours of testing was the lack of action from the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK outfit. Six-time World Champion and 2021 runner-up Jonathan Rea decided to not test on the first day, preferring to utilise the ten-day rule the best possible. For Alex Lowes, he sat out the opening two hours of the testing day, but commented on his improvement in physical fitness, saying he’s “feeling a lot better” and is keen to work on corner exit and try new items from Showa. He tested just after 13:00 and was third at lunch with a 1’41.402 after nine laps.
Back in action is Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), who has been side-lined for four months with a broken wrist. The wrist has only been better for three months, but Mahias still has ligament pain. The 2017 World Supersport Champion said that the focus for today is on him getting accustomed to the ZX-10RR once again, as he’s been off the bike for a considerable time. He expects to try new items on day two, as well as some chassis work. He was third at midday.
WorldSSP ACTION: Öncü heads of fresh faces, Kenan Sofuoglu returns
Can Öncü (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was the fastest of the World Supersport contingency after the opening hours. The Turkish rider headed off rookie teammate and 2020 CEV European Moto2™ Champion Yari Montella, with the Italian getting to grips with his ZX-6R. Öncü has a new bike but the same model, so hopes that it delivers the goods from the start. Third place belonged to Ben Currie (G.A.P Motozoo by Puccetti Racing), with the Australian making his World Championship debut, a second behind Montella. Kenan Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) was next as he deputises for nephew Bahattin Sofuoglu, who tested positive for COVID-19. Jeffrey Buis was the last of the WorldSSP runners, with the 2020 WorldSSP300 Champion less than half-a-tenth behind five-time Champion Sofuoglu. Ana Carrasco was also on track, setting more than 30 laps.
WorldSBK unofficial lap times at 14:00:
1. Xavi Vierge (Team HRC): 1’41.248
2. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC): 1’41.272
3. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK): 1’41.402
4. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing): 1’42.005
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