22 for ‘22 | How will the 2022 WorldSBK Championship grid look?

The 2022 WorldSBK Championship grid is almost complete... check out the movers, shakers and newcomers for another thrilling season

Jonathan Rea, Toprak Razgatlioglu, Alvaro Bautista


The 2022 WorldSBK Championship is just one shy of matching the 23 full-time riders that competed for the majority of the 2021 season, with two more still expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Whereas the MotoGP grid looks fairly similar to last year’s, the 2022 WorldSBK field has seen its fair share of team shifts and fresh blood, with a heady mix of experienced stalwarts, relative newcomers with something to prove and precocious rookies filling the ranks.

The opening round is still a little way away - 9/10 April at Motorland Aragon - but this is how things are shaping up as pre-season testing beckons next week.

Toprak Razgatlioglu - Pata Yamaha

Yamaha

The empty champagne bottles are in the recycling and the confetti has been swept away, so now Yamaha’s attention must now turn to defending its hard-earned 2021 WorldSBK title with Toprak Razgatlioglu.

The Turkish rider ended the six-year reign of Jonathan Rea in 2021 with a deft display of confident, aggressive and sharply accurate riding on the Yamaha R1. It’s an armoury that will be tough for rivals - even Rea - to penetrate in 2022 and the manufacturer will have confidence its three other factory-supported riders will make a step forward to support him.

After a modest start to his first WorldSBK season, Andrea Locatelli turned things around with an excellent second-half of the year that yielded four podiums and made him generally the quickest of ‘No.2 riders’ alongside Ducati’s Michael Ruben Rinaldi and Kawasaki’s Alex Lowes. Another step forward should see him battling for wins.

The same ‘could’ be said for Garrett Gerloff, who looked well on course for a first win initially in 2021 before a catalogue of confidence-sapping issues saw him fade into the mid-field. If he can rediscover that turn of pace, he can match Locatelli for pace.

His GRT Yamaha team-mate Kohta Nozane, meanwhile endured a steep learning curve in 2021 but showed glimmers of improvements during the final rounds. Kudos to Yamaha for giving him an extended stay to show what he can do.

Jonathan Rea - Kawasaki Racing Team

Kawasaki

Coming into the season as the ‘underdogs’ for the first time since 2015, Jonathan Rea will have the bit between his teeth as he looks to cement his status as the greatest Superbike rider of all time by responding to Razgatlioglu’s title win and securing a seventh crown.

With more to come from the Kawasaki ZX-10RR, which looked a handful at times in 2021, Rea will be getting his head right down in preparation for what could potentially be his greatest success yet.

After a 2021 season beset by injury problems, Alex Lowes comes into the 2022 WorldSBK season under pressure to capitalise on his esteemed position at KRT. With only one win and eight podiums across two seasons, Lowes hasn’t sparkled alongside Rea and needs a good year if he has any chance of remaining for a third campaign.

Kawasaki’s leading privateer effort, Puccetti Racing, also has an unchanged rider in Lucas Mahias, the Frenchman showing bursts of speed in his first full season of WorldSBK racing but a tendency to crash all too often.

The youngest among a new wave of fresh talent, Oliver Konig becomes the first WorldSBK rider to have previously competed in WorldSSP 300. Moreover, the Czech 20-year old does so by making the direct step from the novice classes, making him something of a risky quantity for the Orelac VerdNatura outfit.

Stalwarts TPR (Team Pedercini Racing) have filled at least one of their seats with Loris Cresson, who will start the second of a two-year deal in 2022, the Belgian hoping a season’s experience will help get him off the back row of the grid.

Alvaro Bautista - Ducati Panigale V4 R

Ducati

Big changes in the factory Aruba.it Ducati team has seen it revive ties with Alvaro Bautista, the ex-MotoGP rider who swept to 11 straight wins from his maiden WorldSBK race in 2019.

Of course the relationship soured as Bautista’s form - and Ducati - hit the deck during the second-half of the year, but while the Spaniard’s ensuing tenure at Honda didn’t steal headlines, it is hoped his diminutive frame will make better use of the Panigale V4 R many fear is the quickest on the grid.

Michael Ruben Rinaldi will stay on as team-mate after an up and down campaign that saw him reel off three wins, but occasionally struggle for pace elsewhere. Like Lowes, he will need to impress in 2022.

After the underwhelming efforts of Tito Rabat in 2021, Barni Racing will change its philosophy for 2022 by looking to the future with exciting youngster Luca Bernardi. A surprise WorldSSP standout last season before injury ended his campaign prematurely, the San Marino racer is on a two-year deal with Barni.

Having decided against changing to Yamaha machinery, Team Go Eleven has also looked to WorldSSP for inspiration with German racer Philipp Oettl making his debut in the premier class.

Finally, many eyes will be on Axel Bassani for 2022 as he prepares for his second season in WorldSBK in the wake of a stunning rookie campaign in 2021 that almost netted him Rookie of the Year honours. His burst of form came too late for factories to consider him for their line-ups, but Bassani will be loitering high on their lists for 2023 if he can follow it up with a strong 2022 campaign.

Scott Redding - BMW Motorrad WorldSBK, BMW M 1000 RR

BMW

After the modest S 1000 RR was retired in favour of a similarly modest - but at least race-winning - replacement in the M 1000 RR, BMW recognises it has nowhere to hide in 2022.

It certainly hasn’t skimped on the rider line-up, with Michael van der Mark staying put to be joined by Scott Redding, who defects from Ducati after being replaced by Alvaro Bautista.

Redding faces a steep learning curve having softened the Superbike transition with a move from MotoGP to the V4 architecture of the Panigale, with the inline-four of the M 1000 RR presenting a fresh challenge.

Elsewhere, Bonovo Racing soaks up the remnants of the short-lived RC Squadra project to swell to a two-man team, with Eugene Laverty coming over too and being joined by Loris Baz, who could be the Munich marque’s most potent weapon provided the German satellite outfit can get its hands on factory parts.

Iker Lecuona - Team HRC Honda

Honda

After getting its return to WorldSBK in a full factory capacity off to a stuttering start, Honda is changing tact significantly this year with the hiring of two experienced - but young - ex-GP riders and giving the CBR1000RR-R a significant update.

Iker Lecuona arguably never had a fair crack at shining in MotoGP, so WorldSBK could be a saving grace for his still developing career, while Xavi Vierge is more of an unknown quantity but could do wonders smoothing the route for other Moto2 riders to go direct to WorldSBK in future.

Meanwhile, Honda will be complemented by a strengthened satellite effort in MIE Racing, which expands to two entries for the retained Leandro Mercado and another ex-MotoGP convert in Malaysian rider Hafizh Syahrin.

Tom Sykes - BMW Motorrad WorldSBK

Seats to be announced

Paddock talk suggests there are still two more seats to be confirmed for the season, with one expected to belong to Christophe Ponsson on the Gil Motorsport Yamaha, while Pedercini Kawasaki is chasing Tom Sykes hard for its second seat.

2022 WorldSBK World Championship Rider Line-up [as of 23/01/22]
TeamRiderNat.Motorcycle

Kawasaki Racing Team

Jonathan ReaGBRKawasaki ZX-10RR
Alex LowesGBRKawasaki ZX-10RR

Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK

Toprak RazgatliogluTURYamaha R1
Andrea LocatelliITAYamaha R1

BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team

Scott ReddingGBRBMW M 1000 RR
Michael van der MarkNEDBMW M 1000 RR

Aruba Ducati

Michael Ruben RinaldiITADucati Panigale V4 R
Alvaro BautistaESPDucati Panigale V4 R

Team HRC

Xavi ViergeESPHonda CBR1000RR-R
Iker LecuonaESPHonda CBR1000RR-R

GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team

Garrett GerloffUSAYamaha R1
Kohta NozaneJAPYamaha R1

Bonovo Racing

Eugene LavertyIRLBMW M 1000 RR
Loris BazFRABMW M 1000 RR
Outdo TPR RacingLoris CressonBELKawasaki ZX-10RR
Puccetti RacingLucas MahiasFRAKawasaki ZX-10RR
Barni RacingLuca BernardiRSMDucati Panigale V4 R
Motocorsa RacingAxel BassaniITADucati Panigale V4 R
MIE Racing HondaLeandro MercadoARGHonda CBR1000RR-R
 Hafizh SyahrinMALHonda CBR1000RR-R
Orelac VerdNatura RacingOliver KonigCZEKawasaki ZX-10RR
Team Go ElevenPhilipp OettlGERDucati Panigale V4 R

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