PREVIEW: does Most hold one final plot twist before WorldSBK’s summer break?

Monday, 25 July 2022 06:51 GMT

After a stunning Donington Park, the WorldSBK entourage returns to the charming Autodrom Most, which made an emphatic entrance onto the calendar in 2021

From the title twist of Donington Park, the battles of Estoril and the clash of Assen, the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike Word Championship has seen it all so far in the first half of the season. Last corner battles and gracious victories, surprises in the order to a battling titanic trio, but is there one more surprise and plot twist in store? The Autodrom Most is next and it came onto the calendar with a bang in 2021 with instantly one of the best last laps in WorldSBK history. However, with a three-horse race for supremacy this year, plus riders knocking on the door to join them, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen in the Czech Republic this time around at the Prosecco DOC Czech Round.

TITANIC TRIO: Bautista, Rea and Razgatlioglu set to be closer than ever at halfway point

Despite still leading the Championship, Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) saw his points lead slashed at Donington Park after his first crash of the season in Race 1. Having had it at 36, it now sits at 17, more than halved. It’ll be Bautista’s first time with the Ducati at the track, which is similar to Donington Park with a fast and flowing nature. Ducati struggled at Donington Park but found form later in the weekend, whilst they were winners at Most in 2021. Could Bautista re-assert himself this weekend? Teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi found a step at Donington Park and is now five points behind fourth overall; at Most in 2021, he achieved a double top five in the full races.

Whilst he may not have won at Misano or Donington Park, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) has made gains and is now right back in close contention for a seventh World Championship. With a new Kawasaki deal taking him until the end of 2024, Rea’s future is sorted and he can race for this year as his sole focus. He crashed twice at Most in Race 1 last year but bounced back for a 200th career podium in the Superpole Race and another rostrum in Race 2. 13 podiums from 15 races like his main title rivals, Rea hopes to make Most the 22nd different circuit he’s won at. Teammate Alex Lowes was back on the podium at Donington Park with third in Race 1 and is just 18 points off fourth overall; he’ll hope to crack the top five at the Czech venue for the first time.

Having not won any of the opening ten races, reigning World Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) is now the only rider in 2022 to have won four races in five. The 26-year-old is looking at one with his bike and team boss Paul Denning commented on Toprak’s belief of being able to ride like he wants again. With “Toprak style” coming back, he comes to a circuit where he triumphed in a stunning final lap battle in 2021 against Scott Redding, although the two were at odds with each other in the heat of the moment after. Winning again in the Superpole Race and second in Race 2, Razgatlioglu has the best form at the circuit as well as coming into the 2022 round, having achieved a career-first triple at Donington. Teammate Andrea Locatelli hopes to bounce back after a difficult Donington Park at a circuit where he took a rostrum in 2021 with third.

BMW BREAKTHROUGH: has the tide turned for Redding?

Huge gains were made in the BMW camp at Donington Park as a new swingarm enabled Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) to take his biggest points haul of the season so far and a first rostrum with BMW in the Tissot Superpole Race. Although he insists it still needs work, Redding has now demonstrated the potential that he and the M1000RR package could have and comes to Most in good spirits. He won Race 2 last year with a brilliant performance, and he’ll hope that he can make a proposal for the podium places again. Whilst teammate Michael van der Mark is healing up, Peter Hickman, fresh from his wildcard appearance at Donington, will stand in for the Dutchman at the Autodrom Most. Illya Myhkhalchyk, who stood in for van der Mark at Aragon, Misano and Donington, is preparing for the Suzuka 8 Hours.

HOPING TO BOUNCE BACK: Team HRC aiming for Most revival

In what was always going to be a tricky Donington Park weekend, Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) and teammate Xavi Vierge got through it but now face a similar scenario as they head to a circuit that they don’t know. Lecuona is the only rider in the entire WorldSBK field to have scored points in every race – all of which have been top ten finishes – and that is vital for development of the CBR1000RR-R. He’s just eight points off fourth overall, with the fight for the top four being a four-way battle and seeing four riders covered by just 18 points. Teammate Vierge never looked settled at Donington Park but hopes that with his injury from Misano improving, he can hold onto a top ten placing going into the summer break.

INDEPENDENT BRIGADE: keen to take the fight to factories before summer

Besides the factories, the battle for top Independent is fierce; so far, it’s Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) who leads it and the Italian has made no bones about his aims of beating the factory Ducati of Rinaldi in his bid for a 2023 factory seat. After a top five at Most last year, expect Bassani to feature strongly; he lies eighth in the standings. The next Independent is Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW), who after a hat-trick of ninth places in the UK, arrives at Most for the first time, 28 points behind Bassani. Behind Baz, the enigmatic Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), who achieved two top six finishes at Most in 2021, whilst Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven), Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), Eugene Laverty (Bonovo Action BMW) and Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) all head to Most for the first time, keen for a top ten before summer.

Tamburini is three points ahead of Sammarinese rider Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark Racing Team), who missed out on points at Donington Park but took a top five finish in WorldSSP at Most in 2021. Kohta Nozane (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) hopes for a return to points at Most, where he scored two 14th place finishes in 2021, whilst Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport Yamaha) aims to be fighting fit. Leon Haslam (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) is not with Lucio Pedercini’s team at Most due to Suzuka 8 Hour commitments so instead, young British prospect Ryan Vickers is called up, with the team helped by Guim Roda, the KRT team boss, in setting the bike up for the weekend and finding Ryan. Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team) and teammate Hafizh Syahrin hope to do their Czech-based team proud at home, whilst home rider Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) hopes for his first points of 2022, where he took a podium in WorldSSP300 last year.

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