PREVIEW: a mountain to climb as WorldSBK arrives at the foot of the Andes in Argentina

Monday, 17 October 2022 07:18 GMT

San Juan will ignite to the sound of World Superbike action as a passionate crowd, a dramatic backdrop and fierce on-track action promise a spectacular Motul Argentinean Round

The chase for gold in the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has landed in the land of silver, as the tenth round of the season enters the horizon at the Circuito San Juan Villicum venue at the foot of the Andes in Argentina. The Motul Argentinean Round is always a spectacular event, not least for its jaw-dropping backdrop and the passion that oozes from the packed grandstands. The Championship can’t be wrapped up in South America, but it can be a crucial round in determining the outcome, as now more than ever, those chasing behind need big results ahead of the back-to-back finale in Indonesia and Australia.

HEADING FOR THE SUMMIT: Bautista’s charge to the title continues

A winner on his San Juan debut and victorious of four of the last six races in 2022, Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) is a favourite ahead of this year’s trip to Argentina. The Spaniard is in fine form and with his previous Ducati experience at the track, he should be in contention for victory throughout the weekend once more. Quick to deny that it’ll be another Barcelona-style show, the layout of San Juan – with its long backstraight – suggests that it may well be another strong weekend for Bautista and Ducati, although his title rivals will be keen to make up plenty of time around the rest of the lap. Teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi was quick to go on the contrary to Bautista’s denial about Ducati domination and said openly that 1-2 could be possible; Rinaldi has yet to stand on the podium in Argentina, but a rostrum this year could bolster his teammate’s title chances.

NOW OR NEVER: the importance of San Juan for Razgatlioglu and Rea

Chasing Bautista, reigning World Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) knows he must reduce the Championship gap before the last two rounds of 2022. Currently at 56, it came down by just three at Portimao by no means enough. Razgatlioglu was a double winner in Argentina in 2021, however, he’s the only rider to finish on the podium there for Yamaha, so will he – like during the opening two races at Portimao – be able to make the difference? Since Argentina’s addition to the WorldSBK calendar, there’s never been a Championship lead change after the round – it could be the most critical round of 2022 for Razgatlioglu. Teammate Andrea Locatelli continues his search for a podium return, with a best of sixth at San Juan last year: can he help his teammate?

It's an even more critical round for Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who is the most successful rider in Argentina since racing begun there. The win drought dates back to Estoril and wasn’t able to be ended last time out at Portimao, with three third-place finishes was something Rea admitted to being a ‘reality’ at the moment. Fierce last year on his way to two second-place finishes, Rea’s deficit to the Championship lead is 82, the most it’s been since he joined Kawasaki. The goal of a seventh World Championship is slipping away for 2022, but this is Jonathan Rea, the rider who always trusts the process and until the numbers say so, never says it’s over. With nine races to go, a monumental comeback is needed. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) hopes to be on hand to help if needed, as he chases a first rostrum at the Argentinean circuit.

THE DUEL CONTINUES: a tango is set for Honda and BMW

It will be an all-new experience for Honda’s line-up of Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) and teammate Xavi Vierge, with neither having visited the circuit before. The battle between Honda and BMW in the standings is intensifying too, as Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) closes up. Lecuona failed to score points in two races at Portimao, particularly strange given his previous knowledge of the circuit and the testing preseason. For Vierge, it was more promising, and the 25-year-old Spaniard was able to come away with two eighth places in the longer races, perhaps starting a late charge to finish the season ahead of his teammate, although Lecuona is 48 points ahead of him. Last year, Honda’s best result was tenth in Argentina, something they’ve achieved six times at the track.

In the aforementioned BMW camp, all eyes will be on Scott Redding who – after a tricky Barcelona and Portimao – aims to return to the podium in Argentina, where he’s the most recent winner. A dominant victory in 2021 with Ducati, it’s a circuit that Redding has been strong at and he’ll hope that it remains the case with the M1000RR. Teammate Michael van der Mark put on a scintillating ride through the field at Portimao from 20th to eighth in the Superpole Race, a glimmer of the old magic that the Dutchman had prior to his injury. He’s the rider who gave BMW a best result in Argentina of fifth last year. Can he or Redding improve on that?

INDEPENDENTS PROSPECTS: can Bassani be the biggest surprise of them all?

Heading to the land of silver, Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) continues to lead the way in the Independents battle, despite a crash in Race 2 last time out at Portimao ending a streak of 26 consecutive race finishes. Bassani was in the battle for victory in Argentina last year, also the scene of his first and only front row start after Superpole to-date. Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) is next up in 11th and just ten points off the top ten overall, occupied by Vierge. Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) will return to Argentina for the first time since 2019, just three points behind Gerloff, whilst Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven) hopes he can use Ducati strengths to return to the top ten. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) continues chasing a first top ten since Magny-Cours, whilst it’ll be Eugene Laverty’s (Bonovo Action BMW) final visit to San Juan as a rider.

Kohta Nozane’s (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) final three rounds of WorldSBK action for the time being also enter the horizon and he’ll hope for a top ten before the end of 2022, whilst Hafizh Syahrin (MIE Racing Honda Team) tackles San Juan for the first time. The same can’t be said for home-hero teammate Leandro ‘Tati’ Mercado, with the Argentine rider hoping to return to the points in front of a partisan home crowd. It’s been a tricky season for Mercado, who’ll hope to have his 2022 highlight at home. Continuing to chase his first WorldSBK points, Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) races at San Juan for the first time. Besides that, the other news is that Xavi Fores (BARNI Spark Racing Team) returns to WorldSBK in place of Luca Bernardi, whilst Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) and Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport-Yamaha) finished their season after the European rounds. Returning to WorldSBK action 12 months after his wildcard debut, Marco Solorza (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) joins Pedercini Kawasaki for the event.

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