The Japanese rider made an impressive debut in Australia as he stood in at Team HRC
The MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship welcomed a new face in 2022 as Tetsuta Nagashima (Team HRC) enjoyed a strong debut in place of the injured Iker Lecuona at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit during the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. The Japanese rider, who has been a test rider for Honda and also took part in MotoGP™ races during this season, impressed on his debut in WorldSBK with two top-ten finishes in Australia.
Nagashima had experience of the Phillip Island circuit from his outings in MotoGP™ this year just a month ago, when he finished in 19th place in the race and he returned to the iconic track for the WorldSBK season finale for Team HRC. It was his WorldSBK debut although he did have experience of the CBR1000RR-R as part of his testing programme in Japan, as well racing a similar version of the bike when he raced at the Suzuka 8 Hours in August alongside Lecuona and Takumi Takahashi when they won the race.
Nagashima’s pace started strongly as he took sixth place in the combined practice sessions after both Friday practice sessions, setting a best lap time of 1’31.869s and finishing as the lead Honda rider in Australia. In the Tissot Superpole session, Nagashima took tenth spot and matched teammate Xavi Vierge’s lap time with just 0.032s between the two riders in ninth and tenth place respectively.
In both the full-length races, Nagashima was again in the top ten with tenth place in Race 1 in a flag-to-flag encounter, with Nagashima thrown in at the deep end in terms of racing. In Race 2, a shortened race but the only fully dry battle of the weekend, Nagashima finished in ninth as the lead Honda rider again after Vierge’s opening lap crash before re-joining several laps down. It capped off a solid weekend for the Japanese rookie as he finished with 13 points from his three races, putting him 21st in the Championship standings.
Reflecting on his weekend, Nagashima said: “It was a very nice experience and very fun. But, on the other side, it was very tough because of the weather and the Superpole Race was a little bit difficult because I had never used an intermediate tyre. I can’t choose it if I never try it, so I went for the wet tyre and after two or three laps I felt almost finished. All the experience is very nice. When we started on Friday, I felt good even though my feeling wasn’t perfect. On Saturday, it was raining in the morning and also, I had a crash, and again in Superpole. I tried to follow Jonny and I crashed; I didn’t know where the limit on the Pirelli tyre was. If conditions were more stable, for sure, we could’ve finished a bit higher, but this is racing.”
Nagashima also discussed whether he could make a return to WorldSBK action in the near future. He said: “Now, I think I won’t have a winter break because I’ll have some tests for sure! This kind of experience for me is very nice but I have three kids and my wife. I want to be racing regular riders for next year and I want to be back here. Maybe now I’ll have to push Honda a little bit more! I don’t know if they have one place more. I’m happy and if I have a chance, for sure I want to come back here.”
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