WorldSBK Most: Race preview

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Picture: GeeBee Images

After a stunning Donington Park, the WorldSBK entourage returns to the charming Autodrom Most, which made an emphatic entrance onto the calendar in 2021.

From the title twist of Donington Park, the battles of Estoril and the clash of Assen, the 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike Word Championship has seen it all so far in the first half of the season. Last corner battles and gracious victories, surprises in the order to a battling titanic trio, but is there one more surprise and plot twist in store? The Autodrom Most is next and it came onto the calendar with a bang in 2021 with instantly one of the best last laps in WorldSBK history. However, with a three-horse race for supremacy this year, plus riders knocking on the door to join them, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen in the Czech Republic this time around at the Prosecco DOC Czech Round.

Despite still leading the championship, Aruba.it Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista saw his points lead slashed in the UK after his first crash of the season in race one. Having stretched it to 36 after round four, it now sits at just 17, more than halved in one weekend. It’ll be Bautista’s first time with the Ducati at the Czech track, which is similar to Donington Park with a fast and flowing nature. Ducati initially struggled last time out but found form later in the weekend, whilst they were winners at Most in 2021. Could Bautista re-assert himself this time around? Teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi found another step at Donington Park and is now five points behind fourth overall; at Most in 2021, he achieved a double top five in the full races.

Whilst he may not have won at Misano or his home races at Donington, KRT’s Jonathan Rea has made gains and is now right back in close contention for a seventh world championship. With a new Kawasaki deal taking him until the end of 2024, Rea’s future is sorted and he can race for this year as his sole focus. He crashed twice at Most in race one last year but bounced back for a 200th career podium in the Superpole sprint and another rostrum to complete the weekend. 13 podiums from 15 races like his main title rivals, Rea is hoping to make Most the 22nd different circuit he’s won at. Teammate Alex Lowes was back on the podium at Donington Park with third in Saturday’s clash and is just 18 points off fourth overall; he’ll hope to crack the top five at the Czech venue for the first time.

Having not won any of the opening ten races, Pata Yamaha’s reigning world champion Toprak Razgatlioglu is now the only rider in 2022 to have won four races in five. The 26-year-old is looking at one with his bike and team boss Paul Denning commented on Toprak’s belief of being able to ride like he wants again. With “Toprak style” coming back, he comes to a circuit where he triumphed in a stunning final lap battle in 2021 against Scott Redding, although the two were at odds with each other in the heat of the moment after. Winning again in the Superpole race and second in race two, Razgatlioglu has the best form at the circuit as well as coming into the 2022 round, having achieved a career-first triple at Donington. Teammate Andrea Locatelli hopes to bounce back after a difficult visit to the UK at a circuit where he took to the third step of the rostrum in 2021.
Huge gains were made in the BMW camp at Donington Park as a new swingarm enabled Scott Redding to take his biggest points haul of the season so far and a first rostrum with BMW Motorrad in the Tissot Superpole Race. Although he insists it still needs work, Redding has now demonstrated the potential that he and the M1000RR package could have and comes to Most in good spirits. He won race two last year with a brilliant performance, and he’ll hope that he can make a proposal for the podium places again. Whilst teammate Michael van der Mark is healing up, Peter Hickman, fresh from his wildcard appearance at round five and the BSB visit to Brands Hatch, will sub for the Dutchman at the Autodrom Most. Illya Myhkhalchyk, who stood in for van der Mark at Aragon, Misano and Donington, is preparing for the Suzuka 8 Hours.

Having navigated a tricky Donington Park weekend, Team HRC’s Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge now face a similar scenario as they head to another circuit they don’t know. Lecuona is the only rider in the entire WorldSBK field to have scored points in every race – all of which have been top ten finishes – and that is vital for development of the CBR1000RR-R. He’s just eight points off fourth overall, with the fight for the top four being a four-way battle with those four riders covered by just 18 points. Teammate Vierge never looked settled at Donington Park but hopes that with his injury from Misano improving, he can hold onto a top ten placing going into the summer break.

Besides the factories, the battle for top Independent is fierce; so far, it’s Motocorsa’s Axel Bassani who leads it and the Italian has made no bones about his aims of beating the factory Ducati of Rinaldi in his bid for a 2023 factory seat. After a top five at Most last year, expect Bassani to feature strongly; he lies eighth in the standings.

The next Independent is Bonovo Action BMW’s Loris Baz, who after a hat-trick of ninth places in the UK, arrives at Most for the first time, 28 points behind Bassani. Behind Baz, the enigmatic Garrett Gerloff (GYTR GRT Yamaha), who achieved two top six finishes at Most in 2021, whilst Philipp Oettl (GoEleven), Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti), Eugene Laverty (Bonovo BMW) and Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing) all head to Most for the first time, keen for a top ten before summer.

Tamburini is three points ahead of Sammarinese rider Luca Bernardi (BARNI Spark), who missed out on points at Donington but took a top five finish in WorldSSP at Most in 2021. Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha) hopes for a return to points at Most, where he scored two 14th place finishes in 2021, whilst Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport Yamaha) aims to be fighting fit.

Leon Haslam (TPR Pedercini) arrives at Most fresh from BSB duty at Brands Hatch and aims for points in the Czech Republic once again. MIE Honda teammates Leandro Mercado and Hafizh Syahrin hope to do their Czech-based team proud at home, whilst home rider Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) hopes for his first points of 2022, where he took a podium in WorldSSP300 last year.