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Rumour mill and silly season: 2022 musical chairs continue in WorldSBK

Wednesday, 13 October 2021 08:50 GMT

The 2021 season may well be coming into its final stages, but who will be left standing when the music stops for the 2022 line-up?

The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship enters the closing stages of the Championship and there’s plenty of reasons to watch, with the title race totally inseparable. Whilst plenty of battles are happening on track, pens are being picked up throughout the paddock as riders and teams begin to ink deals and secure their future. There’s plenty of gossip, meaning that we could see a whole new complexion to the 2022 grid.

SIGNED. SEALED. DELIVERED. WHO IS LOCKED IN FOR 2022?

The latest signings for 2022 include Luca Bernardi graduating to Barni RacingKohta Nozane remaining with GRT Yamaha and Andrea Locatelli likewise staying at Pata Yamaha. There’s also been Michael Ruben Rinaldi staying at the factory Ducati team, the switch from Honda back to Ducati for Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) and from Ducati to BMW for Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who will join the official BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team for next year, replaced by Bautista. 

Putting MotoGP™ rumours to bed, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) hailed his “incredible opportunity” for 2022 with KRT alongside teammate Alex Lowes. At Yamaha, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) will remain in the factory team, whilst Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) is confirmed to stay within the Yamaha family. Loris Cresson (OUTDO TPR Team Pedercini Racing) is already on a two-year deal but apart from that, there are yet to be formal announcements about next year’s line-up, with plenty of riders still to be snapped up. On the contrary of being locked in for 2022, Chaz Davies announced his retirement from WorldSBK at the end of 2021.

YOUNG RIDERS ON THE WAY TO HONDA?

Rumours about the vacant Team HRC seat have been swirling for a while with Iker Lecuona, currently starring in MotoGP™, one of the rumoured riders heading to Team HRC. Speaking about his future during the Aragon Grand Prix, Lecuona said: “For now I can’t say where I go; I can say that I know my future and that it is not only one year, so I am more relaxed. I’m happy with the opportunity and very happy with the new objective. For now, I can’t say anything!” Another potential rumour for Team HRC is another Spanish rider, this time Xavi Vierge. Currently in Moto2™, Vierge has said that it is “every riders’ dream” to join Team HRC and he confirmed that talks had started for 2022. 

HASLAM COY ON HIS FUTURE

Ahead of the Catalunya Round, current Team HRC rider Leon Haslam said he was not ‘in a big panic’ about his future, saying: “From my side, it’s been a good two years so far. I’m fully supportive of this project and it will become a winning project. Got to wait and see what Honda decide to see if they want to bring in two young guys from GP, obviously as the rumours are. From my side of it, unless I can be on something I feel can win, I don’t want to be here just to make the numbers up in teams that aren’t necessarily going to be challenging for the top five. I’m not in a big panic. There’s either going to be an opportunity where I can win for the future, and if not, we can easily move on and do something different for the future.” Whilst Haslam hasn’t announced any plans, latest rumours are linking him with a satellite ride in WorldSBK.

SURPRISES IN STORE: Baz to return, GoEleven to switch manufacturers?

One of the latest rumours is that Loris Baz may well be back to WorldSBK, with rumours linking him to the Bonovo MGM Racing team. The Frenchman announced in Tuesday that he wouldn’t race in MotoAmerica in 2022, having been “90%” certain of remaining in the USA when he returned to WorldSBK at Jerez, although he did also state that “my place is here”, referring to the WorldSBK paddock. The team he joined for Jerez and Portimao, Team GoEleven, are also rumoured to be switching manufacturers in 2022 with talk in the paddock about a potential move to Yamaha machinery.

WHAT NEXT FOR SYKES? “Big interest” with a factory team

Talking to Eurosport on Sunday at Navarra and when asked about being linked with the HRC project, Sykes stated: “It’s a very big name and a fantastic brand. Me and Leon Camier are good mates and old sparring partners, and he understands the game and the level of the riders, so yes, it is a big interest.” Despite interest in a factory team, there are rumours Sykes is looking for a ride elsewhere.

FACTORY SEATS TO FILL: which works rides remain?

The seats are filling up but there’s still plenty of good options on the table – both factory Hondas are up for grabs and that’s it, the rest are full. Both Yamahas, Kawasakis, Ducatis and BMWs are filled up, whilst there will be plenty of talk about who the factory-supported Independent teams are going to hire for next season.

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