2022 WorldSBK Mid-Season Review | Which 5 riders have stolen the show in 2022?

We're half-way through the 2022 WorldSBK Championship season... but which five riders can look back at their campaigns thus far with the most pride?

Alvaro Bautista - Aruba.it Ducati

The summer holidays are in full swing for the WorldSBK Championship with sun, sea and se…rious training sessions on the mind for this year’s riders.

But before they let it all hang out on their ‘holibobs’, we’re looking back at the first term for the proverbial WorldSBK ‘parents evening’... so which pupils will be getting a smiley face sticker and which will have their teams frowning at their pride and joy?

1 - Toprak Razgatlioglu

We’ll admit, ranking Toprak Razgatlioglu - for all of this wizardry on a Superbike - as the best of the most impressive riders out there so far this season is a touch contentious.

In all honesty, it’s really equal footing with Alvaro Bautista below, but Razgatlioglu gets the nod because of a turnaround in form in recent rounds that has revived his title defence aspirations having appeared fairly down and out after three rounds.

Iffy form in the opening three rounds raised doubts about the Yamaha’s competitiveness next to the improved Kawasaki and Ducati, while two costly DNFs - one after he collided with Jonathan Rea at Assen in a clumsy racing incident and another from a rare technical failure - made Razgatlioglu’s 79 point bridge to the top after three rounds suggested a trend rather than an exception.=

But five exemplary wins in six races at Donington Park and Most have breathed new life into his campaign.

Indeed, for Razgatlioglu, racing as the #1 comes with immense pride… albeit one that weighs heavy. It’s a status that he hasn’t at times looked uncomfortable with the pressure of being defending champion, even if much of it comes himself.

But as a rider who races with emotion, his first treble at Donington Park and the successful return on some canny tactical riding in Most will act as a significant confidence boost.

2 - Alvaro Bautista

While the story of Alvaro Bautista’s 2022 WorldSBK campaign thus far bears a striking resemblance to 2019, no-one expects the same outcome.

Indeed, Bautista’s burst back onto the podium at Ducati has added vigour to the thrilling Rea versus Razgatlioglu set piece, the marriage of the diminutive Spaniard and the Ducati Panigale V4 R making you wonder what might have been possible had he stayed in 2020 and 2021 too.

Then again, there is an argument to suggest this season’s title bid wouldn’t have been possible had he not spent two years sharpening his tactics and finding his limit on the tricky Honda first.

Regardless, Bautista’s bounce back to form has been an impressive - if unexpected - thread of 2022. Fantastic for us as fans, frustrating for his main rivals, who have to varying degrees bemoaned his evident - at times laughable - speed advantage on the straights. 

While Bautista shoos the hecklers away by pointing out (correctly) his Ducati is slower than the Honda at the top, it is the sheer thrust that comes in those mid-gears a couple of seconds after the Panigale V4 R straightens itself out that is the real story.

To his credit, while Bautista is tactically waiting until the straights to make the move, he has also got the Ducati working well in the bends to set it up, while there have been some especially brilliant rides among his seven wins, most notably Estoril and Most, where his fightbacks humbled Rea and Razgatlioglu.

The test for Bautista is to fight a rear-guard action while entering uncharted title fight territory, but he too has good venues on the horizon, namely Catalunya, Portimao and the Phillip Island finale.

3 - Axel Bassani

We’ve become accustomed to Axel Bassani mixing it with the best in and around the top five of WorldSBK but it is worth taking a step back and admiring what he is achieving regularly now.

While he has a season of experience under his belt, Bassani is clearly a quicker rider now than he was at the end of the 2021 WorldSBK season. 

While he doesn’t have the sporadic turn of timesheet topping form factory Ducati rider Michael Ruben Rinaldi occasionally shows, Bassani seems to be the more consistent front runner. Most was a high point, Bassani’s pace just shy of the dominant top three, though fourth at Misano is his best finish.

Moreover, this is all being done in a (very) privateer Motocorsa Racing team which, despite it trouncing Ducati’s favoured satellites Barni and Go Eleven, gets zero assistance from the factory, had just one warm-up before the season and heads into the summer unable to fund any development or testing.

4 - Iker Lecuona

Iker Lecuona admits his MotoGP opportunity came too soon in his career to make the most of it, but it has at least led him to a plum factory WorldSBK seat with Honda.

Relishing in that full factory status has done Lecuona a world of good, the Spaniard toughening up in terms of consistency having developed a reputation with KTM in MotoGP of being rapid on his day but with the his reputation as a rapid but error-prone racer on the KTM RC16 now toughened with that.

Indeed, the status seems to resonate with Lecuona - who was KTM’s new parts guinea pig - stepping up to lead Honda’s hefty development tasks with enthusiasm, despite his lack of Superbike experience.

While the Honda isn’t quite there in terms of performance, it is clear Lecuona is a better fit for the team and the bike than Bautista or Haslam, and his clear commitment to the project has helped to give the manufacturer a positive outlook going forward.

Better still, an excellent - and winning - debut at the Suzuka 8 Hours is both a glowing sign of confidence for the 23-year old from Honda bosses, not to mention a ‘job for life’ if he wants it…

5 - Scott Redding

Scott Redding might have easily found himself heading up the ‘5 WorldSBK riders with a frowny face sticker’ article [coming soon…] just a few weeks back but redemptive performances at Donington Park and Most have turned the tide on his first season as a BMW rider. 

Indicative of a man who has thought out his initial problems and is carrying the momentum through - not an easy task in this sport - Redding’s abysmal showing at Aragon appeared to run deeper than him simply ‘finding his groove’.

But Redding has dug in deeper than at any other time of his career and while BMW hasn’t at times kept their end of the bargain by providing an M 1000 RR capable of racing at the front - as it has promised before every season - he has hauled it to some eye-catching results.

Indeed, his run to the podium at Most was arguably the best of anyone this season, while Redding is evidently now relishing his new underdog status having seemingly initially begrudged the differential in competitiveness between BMW and its competitors.

In fairness, a brand-new swingarm at Donington Park shows BMW is determined to do what it can to get Redding at the front every race, but right now it is Redding and Redding only who can make the M 1000 RR a podium contender. 

If BMW could get the bike on a consistent par with Kawasaki, Ducati and Yamaha, Redding on a roll can be an absolute weapon on it.