First pole for Lecuona as he and Honda storm to the top, title contenders with work to do

Saturday, 24 September 2022 09:59 GMT

It was a Superpole session to remember as the 22-year-old rookie took a first pole, whilst title contenders were left down field

The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s Tissot Superpole session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was a dramatic affair, with spots of rain in the air and clouds gathering, even though the circuit itself was dry. With riders getting down to good times, it was Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) who took his first-ever pole position, having been at the forefront of the pack throughout the weekend so far. He ended Honda’s six-year wait for pole, their last coming in Thailand in 2016. Two of the three title contenders are off the front row, with a raft of riders occupying the leading places.

FIRING INTO LIFE: drama from the start

The opening to the session was tense as riders were waiting around to get clean air, with most of them having left the pits together, whilst others were waiting for the faster riders. There was a crash for Michael Ruben Rinaldi ( Racing – Ducati), one of the last riders to leave the pits for the first run. He went down at Turn 1 in a bizarre crash but was thankfully up on his feet and OK, re-joining the action. Meanwhile, times came in and it was Iker Lecuona who was on the pace ahead of Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK). Xavi Vierge was putting on a great show at home after the first five minutes in fourth, ahead of Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati). Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was only sixth, one place behind his arch-rival, but it was Honda who stole the headlines.

With six minutes to go, riders started their second and final run, but all eyes were on Michael Ruben Rinaldi, with the Italian’s crew working frantically to get his bike – not too badly damaged on the face of it – ready for a final charge in Superpole. Kawasaki duo Rea and Lowes left the pits together, whilst Bautista was out on track with Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) in his wheel tracks – like in FP2 on Friday. Fastest at the time, Lecuona was in between Rea and Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team), with the two British riders usually working together since Donington Park.

THE FINAL STAGES: monumental effort sees Lecuona rocket clear

Elsewhere, Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) got ahead of teammate Razgatlioglu on the track into Turn 5, stunning everyone by going to provisional pole. Bautista was up into second but soon bundled back to fifth as first Lowes and then Lecuona went to the top. An incredible lap from Lecuona saw the Spanish rookie, at a circuit he’s been rapid at in testing, take a career-first pole position in any class of World Championship racing. It was Honda’s first pole in more than six years too, the last time being Michael van der Mark in 2016 in Thailand. Joining him on the front row is Alex Lowes in second and crucially for the title fight, Jonathan Rea in third. His rivals will have to come the hard way in the races.

SECOND ROW: Bautista headlines in P5

The second row still doesn’t feature Rea’s rivals, as fourth place is occupied by Andrea Locatelli, with the Italian returning to form and in mighty style as he took top Yamaha honours. In fifth place, Alvaro Bautista will hope to use Ducati power in order to get himself back inside the top three places, whilst completing the second row of the grid, it was top Independent honours going to American rider Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team). At a circuit he got a first podium at in 2020, can he get back on the box?

ROW THREE: Razgatlioglu only eighth, Vierge with new all-time top speed record

The third row is a heavy-hitting one, with Axel Bassani in seventh, but the big news is that the in-form rider, Toprak Razgatlioglu, was down in eighth place and will start from the middle of the third row. Having been on the front row at every round this season, he will have work to do on the opening lap to put himself in victory contention. Xavi Vierge completes the third row, just less than a second off. The top ten is completed by Rinaldi, who got one lap in to salvage a difficult Superpole.

ROUNDING OUT THE ORDER: Superpole to forget for BMW

Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) will be in the fight as he goes from 11th ahead of fellow Independent rider Phillip Oettl (Team Goeleven), both of whom join Rinaldi on the fourth row. The fifth row is headed up by Scott Redding, with the factory BMW rider having a tricky session and unable to crack the top ten. Fellow BMW rider Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) topped a damp FP3 but was only 14th in Superpole, one place ahead of Kohta Nozane (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team).

Eugene Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW) was 16th, ahead of Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team), Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) and the last of the factory riders, Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team); van der Mark was 19th and has struggled all weekend thus far, more than two seconds adrift of Lecuona’s time. Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha) was 20th, ahead of Oscar Gutierrez (TPR Team Pedercini Racing), Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team).

Top six after WorldSBK Tissot Superpole, full results here:

1. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) 1’40.766s

2. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.023s

3. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.217s

4. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +0.225s

5. Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) +0.382s

6. Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) +0.442s

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