In 2021 Andrea Locatelli was one of the better WorldSBK rookies of recent years, which begs the question, can any of the 2022 rookies replicate what he did this upcoming season.

Last season saw six rookies on the grid to start round one in Aragon including Locatelli, Axel Bassani, Tito Rabat, Isaac Vinales, Lucas Mahias and Kohta Nozane. 

Rabat had by far the toughest time of the six as he claimed just two top ten results, which given his MotoGP experience and him being a former Moto2 champion was very surprising, while Nozane, Vinales and Mahias all put together respectable but unspectacular campaigns. 

However, the two riders who took the series by storm were Locatelli and fellow Italian Bassani.

Locatelli, who joined the series as the reigning WorldSSP champion, was sensational from Assen onwards as he scored 18 top fives out of 25 races to end the year. 

Tha Italian rider also got the better of his more experienced compatriot Michael Rinaldi for fourth in the championship. 

On the other hand, Bassani was arguably just as impressive given his stellar performances on the Motocorsa Ducati compared to Locatelli who was in the full factory Pata Yamaha team. 

Bassani had a highest finish of second which similarly to Locatelli helped him kick-start a run of top ten results - 12 to be exact. 

Given their different levels of experience and the machinery both riders were on, it’s fair to say they were fairly equal although the edge has to go to Locatelli. But can anyone from the 2022 class which includes Iker Lecuona, Xavi Vierge, Hafizh Syahrin, Philipp Oettl and Luca Bernardi come close to matching them. 

Starting with the factory Honda team and former MotoGP rider Lecuona, the Spaniard who is still just 21 years of age is potentially the most likely. 

Lecuona had a solid end to his second season in MotoGP and even showed enough pace to make teams wonder whether he was given sufficient time in the top class.

But unfortunately for Lecuona, 2021 Moto2 champion Remy Gardner and the mightily impressive Raul Fernandez were both promoted to the Tech 3 KTM team in place of him and Danilo Petrucci. 

While Lecuona is probably the most obvious pick based on talent and having a factory bike underneath him, the latter of those comes with a caveat as he’s likely to be on the worst package of the five factory teams. 

Honda finished last in the 2021 constructors championship - over 50 points behind BMW, while in the rider’s championship Alvaro Bautista’s tenth place was lower than the top Yamaha, Kawasaki, Ducati and BMW rider. 

Unless Honda can provide Lecuona, who is also new to Superbike tyres, electronics, brakes and more with a better package, then it’s unlikely he can match the season of Locatelli who was arguably on the best bike.

This means the same applies for last year’s Moto2 riders Xavi Vierge and Hafizh Syahrin. While the latter also brings Moto2 and MotoGP experience, the MIE Honda is unlikely to be a bike regularly inside the top five. 

The other two riders who will perhaps have the best chance of competing for regular top tens - although that still won’t be enough to eclipse what Locatelli did, are the Ducati’s of Oettl and Bernardi. 

Oettl and Bernardi will ride for GoEleven Ducati and Barni Racing respectively, which means having one of the better packages on the grid at their disposal. 

Both Scott Redding and Michael Rinaldi took multiple victories in 2021, while Bassani’s second place in Catalunya was actually a race he led for the most part and could have won. Prior to 2021 Rinaldi also won a race in Aragon whilst riding for the GoEleven team. 

If that’s not enough to highlight the strength of the Panigale V4 R, Loris Baz stepped in for an injured Chaz Davies in Jerez and Portimao and took two podiums in five races. 

Oettl has more experience than Bernardi and was challenging for regular podiums in WorldSSP last year, which might make him the favourite to have the best year of any rookie or certainly between the two Ducati riders. However, a ‘good’ season for Oettl is more likely to represent the type of results Bassani managed rather than consistent top five finishes like Locatelli achieved.