Double WorldSBK Champion James Toseland has praised Honda’s fresh line-up, as Team HRC will field an all-rookie line-up in 2022 with Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge
Whilst there’s one round still to go in the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, 2022’s grid slots are filling up quickly, and Team HRC are the latest – and last – factory to confirm their line-up for next season. 21-year-old Iker Lecuona will switch from the MotoGP™ World Championship and spearhead Team HRC’s line-up, whilst Xavi Vierge will also move over from the paddock and his Moto2™ seat, partnering Lecuona for a completely revamped Honda line-up. Honda’s line-up now means that 16 riders have been confirmed for 2022 so far, with plenty still to come.
This has struck a chord with double World Superbike Champion James Toseland, the last Honda WorldSBK Champion to-date. The British rider, still the youngest ever WorldSBK Champion back in 2004 aged 23, shared his thoughts on Lecuona and Vierge’s bold switch, stating his excitement, whilst also hailing the WorldSBK Championship getting two young riders from the MotoGP™ paddock with lots of potential.
“I tell you what is nice for WorldSBK: for the first time in a long time, we’re going to have some real, fresh, up-and-coming talent coming into the Championship from MotoGP™, not just the older riders,” began Toseland. “Iker Lecuona, especially, has been unfortunate not to find a seat in MotoGP™ with the talent he has got. It’s definitely WorldSBK’s gain to have such bright, young talents like Lecuona and Vierge, and I think they’re great scalps for Honda.”
With the Honda having been on the podium but yet to take a victory, Toseland turned his attention to the project, giving his verdict on their move from valuable experience in Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam to the youthful exuberance of Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge: “The Honda has had some teething problems over the last two years with some of the best riders on them; I think they want a fresh reset. They want to get MotoGP™ riders or Moto2™ riders to come in, with their level of quality, and find the missing link. I’m really excited for them, and I hope it works out. It won’t be easy for them to compete against Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jonathan Rea and Scott Redding, but I’m intrigued to see how quickly they can learn about the flexibility of the bikes, the different brakes and the Pirelli tyres.”
Delving deeper into the signings, the 2004 and 2007 WorldSBK Champion commented that Honda didn’t have much to lose and suggested that the lack of WorldSBK experience in their new line-up may work in Team HRC’s favour rather than against: “Honda had nothing to lose really. They’d already tried the experienced root with Alvaro and Leon, and they’ve both got so much experience collectively between them in WorldSBK and MotoGP™; perhaps they were trying to make the bike something it couldn’t be. With Lecuona and Vierge, they might be able to get on the bike and it might be alright.
“Sometimes, a fresh rider on a bike with no previous experience about what you want it to do, can just jump on it and do it, or at least start from that so they’re not disappointed. They’re not coming from a factory Kawasaki or factory Ducati to the factory Honda team, they’re not coming from better machinery. They’re not developing the bike for themselves, but they’re developing the bike for the bike’s benefit.”
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