Leon Haslam set to lose HRC Honda seat to GP pair for 2022 WorldSBK?

Latest rumours suggest Leon Haslam is set to be frozen out of Honda's 2022 WorldSBK rider line-up in favour of Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge

Leon Haslam - Team HRC Honda WorldSBK 2021

Leon Haslam appears poised to lose his factory Team HRC Honda seat at the end of the year amid growing speculation it will announce a fresh rider line-up comprising Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge for the 2022 WorldSBK season.

One of Superbike racing’s most experienced and seasoned racers, Haslam was hired alongside Alvaro Bautista to front Honda’s full factory return to the WorldSBK Championship with the new CBR1000RR-R in 2020.

However, it has been a tough two seasons for both Haslam and Honda with the new Fireblade proving only moderately competitive.

As such, the team - which is prepared by the same HRC set-up that runs the multiple title-winning Repsol Honda squad in MotoGP - appears poised to adopt a fresh approach for the 2022 WorldSBK campaign with the hiring of MotoGP rider Lecuona and Moto2 front runner Vierge.

Lecuona’s signing has been tipped for a couple of weeks with the Spaniard, who has spent two seasons in MotoGP competing with the Tech 3 KTM squad, revealing he hoped to have the contract signed during this weekend’s San Marino MotoGP in Misano.

With Bautista having already confirmed his impending return to Ducati for 2022, there remained a chance that Haslam would hold onto his seat. However, the past few days have seen Vierge enter the fray, with the Moto2 racer saying he ‘very excited’ at the prospect of joining the factory Honda ranks.

“At the moment, nothing is confirmed; it is true that we are in contact with them [Team HRC], and that it would be a super nice thing to do. I'm very excited; Honda is Honda, it’s a dream for any rider! I hope soon to tell you more about my future; we are speaking with teams, and I hope that soon, I can confirm something about my future.”

Vierge, who has raced in Moto2 since 2015, had been tipped for a potential move into MotoGP next season via his association with Razlan Razali’s Petronas Sprinta Racing set-up, but his future was thrown into doubt on the news the team will withdraw from the intermediate class. To date he has achieved four podiums in Moto2 and currently sits tenth in the standings.

Will Leon Haslam remain in WorldSBK?

Leon Haslam has spent much of his long career deftly skipping between the WorldSBK and British Superbike Championships, taking in stints with a catalogue of esteemed factory teams including Suzuki, BMW, Aprilia, Kawasaki and Honda.

However, his most recent period at Honda hasn’t sparkled, largely because of the middling machinery beneath him which hasn’t made a significant impression on the WorldSBK stage.

That said, Haslam stacked up well compared with big money signing Bautista in 2020 - finishing level on points with the ex-MotoGP rider - but on a weekend the Spaniard scored only Honda’s second WorldSBK podium since its return, the Briton was much further down the order.

While Haslam will likely have plenty of offers in BSB - a series he dominated en route to the title in 2018 - there are still several notable satellite rides available to him in WorldSBK, including at experienced Ducati outfits like Barni and Go Eleven.

However, Haslam’s experience still makes him an asset to Honda, particularly if it does opt for two GP seasoned but otherwise inexperienced WorldSBK rookies for its factory set-up.

This could tie into rumours the firm is set to pile more resources into the satellite MIE Racing team by placing him there for 2022.

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