The Argentinean was the last rider to join the premier class grid in 2021, and he now wants to take flight in his new stage with Honda
Although 2020 was a year bristling with difficulties for the entire MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship paddock, it can be said that Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado's part of adversity was certainly overloaded. It was a campaign that was necessarily concentrated in eight Rounds due to the pandemic, but the Argentine pilot could hardly compete fully in four of them and finished the year in 16th position in the table with 24 points in his pocket. A very small loot for a born competitor, a 2014 STK1000 champion who has fought for the top ten in his previous WorldSBK campaigns.
But 2020 was not a normal year. Mercado started the campaign in the second round, as Motocorsa Racing did not travel to the opening round at Phillip Island. Then things soon turned bad: he got injured in the Aragon Round, being taken out by Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) on the first lap of the Tissot Superpole Race as Sykes, himself forced wide, returned to the track. The incident ruined that weekend and also knocked him out in the next one, the Teruel Round.
On board the Ducati V4 R, Mercado reappeared in the Catalunya Round, but suffered a fracture of the scaphoid in the first free practice session on Friday and thus added another Round he was forced to miss. He was only able to fight properly in the last two rounds on the calendar, at Magny-Cours and Estoril, where he scored regularly and posted two top-10s.
The 29-year-old Argentinean wants to turn the page on all this with his last-minute signing for the MIE Racing Honda Team, announced on the eve of the Catalunya Test. On Wednesday and Thursday of last week he completed his first working sessions with the satellite team and began adapting him to the new Honda, a brand for which he had never competed before.
In an interview with WorlSBK.com, Mercado said: “It was a good test. I’m happy to be back on the bike after four months, so I really enjoyed riding here in Barcelona, to know the team, my new bike. We have a lot of data, information, it was really important for us. We have some new things that we tried, so it was important for information, where we have to work and what we have to improve. Overall, it was good, also to know the bike. It’s my first time with Honda and I really enjoyed working with the team. It was really good to be back on the track. Four months is too much. I was missing to ride, and to be together with other riders. I was missing this a lot. I really enjoyed these two days of testing.”
Mercado has the challenge of making the Honda of MIE Racing shine on the highly competitive WorldSBK grid, a goal from which his predecessor Takumi Takahashi was far behind, but in his favour he has a more evolved and powerful CBR1000 RR-R and with his demonstrated determination to face all kinds of challenges. And an additional incentive: To return to compete in his home circuit, San Juan Villicum, when the championship reappears in Argentina in mid-October after the 2020 hiatus.
Check out the video interview with Tati Mercado at the top of this story and follow the entire 2021 WorldSBK season in detail with the WorldSBK VideoPass!