Two Spanish riders with very different profiles occupy first and second in WorldSSP300 after four races of 2022, with both running on Yamaha machinery
Valencia rider Alvaro Diaz (Arco Motor University Team) leads the 2022 FIM Supersport World Championship after claiming three podium finishes in the first two rounds, including his first win, with 70 points to his name. He is closely followed by Marc Garcia (Yamaha MS Racing) in second place, with just eight points separating the two, after the 2017 Champion claimed a win and a second place at Aragon.
Aboard Yamaha YZF-R3 machines, Diaz and Garcia have achieved five of the six podiums scored by Yamaha so far in the 2022 campaign, with Italian Mirko Gennai (Team BrCorse) adding to Yamaha’s tally with third in Race 1 at Assen. Of the 12 full-time Yamaha riders on the grid, three have scored podiums but it has been a strong start for the Japanese manufacturer as they look to end a run of Kawasaki Championship titles. Still a long way to go in 2022, it is significant that Yamaha have already scored almost as many podiums in 2022 as they did in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, when they scored eight in both seasons.
THE RETURN OF THE CHAMPION. Objective: the second title
With reigning Champion Adrian Huertas moving up to WorldSSP for 2022, it is Garcia and Diaz leading the new Spanish assault on WorldSSP300, a Championship which has had four Spanish Champions in the five campaigns run to date. The difference is, for the first time since 2017, the title challenge is coming on Yamaha machinery; Kawasaki have won all titles from 2018 to 2021.
Garcia claimed the 2017 title and became the first ever Champion in WorldSSP300. After that success, Garcia’s presence in the Championship has been intermittent and his results more irregular. His last victory, before 2022, came in Race 2 at Magny-Cours in 2020. But for 2022, Garcia is starring in a return to the origins as he races again with the MS Racing structure, the same with which he was crowned Champion five years ago. In the season-opening Aragon Round, he was once again one of the protagonists as he claimed two podium finishes. Discussing his return to the Felix Garrido-led team, Garcia said: “We have hit it off very well from the beginning. Returning to this team has been an extra motivation; We want to show the potential of the team and Yamaha again, and try to win the Championship again.”
At the age of 22, he has become one of the veterans on the grid. Only two of the regular 32 riders are older than him, but the Barcelona-native won Race 1 at Aragon and finished second in Race 2, encouraging results that boost his aspirations of becoming the first double WorldSSP300 Champion, his stated goal: “It would be great to win this title again and be the only rider to do it twice in the category. You have to go race by race, there is a lot of Championship left, but you have to be positive and keep working like this,” he commented.
AN EXPLOSIVE START: Diaz leads the Championship
Diaz, 18, made himself known on the world stage with his good performances in 2021, although a year earlier he had already contested his first World Championship races. In his occasional appearances as a wildcard, Diaz took home a fifth place in the Spanish Round and second in the Catalan Round; the latter of which was, until Diaz missed out at Assen, the closest finish of all time. Also, in 2021, the Valencian rider was crowned champion in the Spanish SBK Junior category with the same team he races with on the world stage. Discussing his 2021 appearances and 2022 so far, Diaz said: “I looked very strong last year, when we won the Spanish championship and made the wildcards in WorldSSP300. We have been working on this project for a year now, and I have been with the Arco Motor University Team for about five years, so this is a long-term project.”
The team is made up of young engineers and students of the Valencia Polytechnic University, a different setup to most teams, but one that is helping Diaz to win races and fight for the Championship in the early stages of the 2022 season. Discussing his title charge, Diaz said: “We have been working on the setup of the bike, working on the chassis, on the electronics, and we are aware of our possibilities. Let's go race by race. So far, we have achieved three podiums, let's see what happens... but yes, I see myself at the top and fighting, although there are seven or eight riders at the top who are all very strong and we must not fall asleep, obviously.”
THE OTHERS IN CONTENTION: manufacturers and teams fight for glory
Underlining Yamaha’s strong start to the 2022 season, two other riders aboard the R3 machine have broken into the top ten of the standings after the first two rounds of the season. They are the aforementioned Gennai, who sits in sixth position with 44 points, and compatriot Matteo Vannucci (AG Motorsport Italia Yamaha) who rounds out the top ten with 22 points.
Yamaha currently lead the standings in the Manufacturers’ Championship with 86 points, ten ahead of Kawasaki, although it is MTM Kawasaki, running the Kawasaki Ninja 400, which leads the Teams’ Championship with 86 points ahead of fellow Kawasaki team Prodina Racing WorldSSP300. In search of their first title since 2017, Yamaha MS Racing and the Arco Motor University Team are very close to their rivals with 71 and 70 points respectively. While currently last in the Manufacturers’ Championship and only represented by one full-time rider on the grid, KTM have scored two podiums courtesy of Lennox Lehmann (Freudenberg KTM – Paligo Racing) in 2022; equaling the number they scored between 2019 and 2021.
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