Italian flare readies to host an unpredictable title fight, whilst home heroes look to take charge
The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship thunders into Italy for the fourth round of the season, the Pirelli Emilia-Romagna Round at the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli”, a stone’s throw away from the picturesque Adriatic Sea. Packed grandstands, a title fight as fierce as ever and a huge home contingency ready to put on a display, Misano is one of the most anticipated rounds on the calendar, with a special atmosphere always making a fever pitch feeling throughout the paddock. With the continuous fighting from the titanic trio but gains being made behind, Misano is ready to host yet another dramatic round, but who is going to come out on top?
TITANIC TRIO: which one will it be this time?
Leading the Championship into Ducati’s home event, Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is sitting pretty with a 17-point lead over his nearest rival, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK). After four wins so far in 2022 and never once finishing off the podium, Bautista heads to Misano where he won for Ducati back in 2019 and took a top six for Honda in 2021. He took his first MotoGP™ podium at the circuit in 2012 after a last corner showdown with Andrea Dovizioso, whilst he has podiums and wins from his 250cc days too. Teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi always goes well at Misano and will be in the fight for victory, with the home-hero taking two wins last year as well as a second. Could the titanic trio about to become a fighting foursome?
With 17 points between him and the top of the standings, Jonathan Rea is within striking distance of Bautista’s points lead, although Misano wasn’t the kindest to the Ulsterman in 2021. Three third places in 2021 and the start of front-end woes will hope to be a distant memory, as Rea aims for the top step at the track at which he won his first WorldSBK race at in 2009 and has gone on to win eight races at. After winning two last lap fights at Estoril, Rea’s keen to continue fighting hard and taking victories in Italy. For teammate Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Estoril was a solid round as he took a seventh, a sixth and a fourth, the fourth being his joint-best result of 2022. Three top six finishes at Misano in 2021 and two podiums for Yamaha before, can Lowes be a surprise?
Reigning World Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) looked set for victory at Estoril but was beaten in two last lap fights: the first by the power of Bautista and Ducati in Race 1 and then by his own front-end save on the final lap of the Superpole Race. Still, the opening three rounds of the season all came at tracks where Toprak didn’t win at last year, whilst Misano was where it all began last year with victory in Race 2. Toprak’s always shone at the Italian venue, having been in a battle for victory in Race 2 back in 2019 with Rea, whilst he clinched the STK600 title at the track in 2015 and chases a first win of 2022 this weekend. For his teammate Andrea Locatelli, the Italian is fourth in the standings with eight top five finishes and a podium. He only took three ninth places at Misano last year, whereas this season, he’ll have his sight on the podium.
HONDA AND BMW: a Misano surprise on the horizon?
It’s been a fantastic start to the season for Honda as Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) and teammate Xavi Vierge battle hard on the edge of the podium places, now consolidating their top five running. Since Estoril, they’ve both been in Japan testing for the Suzuka 8 Hour in August with Leon Camier in attendance, but now their mind will be focussed on WorldSBK. In contrast to Estoril, both riders have plenty of experience at Misano; Lecuona’s best MotoGP™ finish was 14th in 2020 and unfortunately, he’s not finished another race at the circuit since. For Vierge, he’s had four top ten finishes in Moto2™ at the track, with a best of fourth coming in 2020. Lecuona is one of just two riders to finish in the top ten in every race this year – the other is Bautista, whilst Vierge comes to Misano off the back of a career-best fifth in Race 1 at Estoril. Can Honda conquer in Italy?
There seemed to be a breakthrough at Estoril for BMW, with Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) having a consistent ride to seventh in the opening race before a set-up change on Sunday cost the Brit of what would’ve been a very strong weekend. Nonetheless, he’s took points in the last four races and heads to the circuit where he tested at with BMW in preseason. Redding is definitely seeing some hard work pay off and hopes that continues for Misano, a track where he took a hat-trick of fourth place finishes in 2021 for Ducati. However, he’s historically been good at Misano, having taken a career-first MotoGP™ podium there in 2015, as well as a seventh in 2017. On the other side of the garage, with Michael van der Mark out through injury, Ukrainian super-sub Illia Mykhalchyk will be back, having scored a top ten at Aragon.
INDEPENDENT BATTLES: a home-hero chasing a dream
The battle of the Independents is fierce with Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) leading; he had a stellar Misano in 2021 when three top seven finishes with a best of sixth really put him in the spotlight. Five points further back is Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW), who had a tricky Estoril which yielded just one top ten finish, whilst Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) is next up, although his Misano presence is to be confirmed after his Estoril FP3 crash which ruled him out with injury. Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven) and Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) were both also declared unfit after crashes at Estoril, with Mahias still out and replaced by Tito Rabat this weekend. Eugene Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW) is 15th overall and the next Independent, chasing a top ten.
Round four will be as near to a home-round as it gets for Sammarinese star Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team), with the rookie one to watch, especially having scored points in three of the last four races. After missing Estoril, Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) hopes to be back for his home round, whilst Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha) aims for a return to the points after missing out last time. Scoring his first points of the season in Portugal, Kohta Nozane (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) aims for more this weekend, whilst Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) hopes for a return to the top 15. Teammate Hafizh Syahrin continues his search for his first points, as does Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura). One wildcard to note is Gabriele Ruiu (Bmax Racing), who makes his third appearance of 2022. Home-hero Alessandro Delbianco (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) will make a return to WorldSBK for his home round.