WorldSBK riders most under pressure to perform in 2022

Here’s a look at five WorldSBK riders believes are most under pressure to perform during the 2022 season.
Eugene Laverty and Kohta Nozane, Jerez WorldSBK race1, 26 September 2021
Eugene Laverty and Kohta Nozane, Jerez WorldSBK race1, 26 September 2021
© Gold and Goose

Here’s a look at five WorldSBK riders believes are the most under pressure to perform in 2022.

Several young riders performed at an incredible level in 2021, including rookies Andrea Locatelli and Axel Bassani, while Loris Baz - who returns to the grid full-time with BMW in 2022 claimed more podiums than many riders with similar experience in just five stand-in appearances.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were various riders who failed to meet expectations, and who are therefore under pressure to perform at a high level this upcoming season. 

5: Kohta Nozane

A WorldSBK rookie in 2021, Kohta Nozane failed to produce any standout performance on his way to 14th in the standings, which given the results his fellow Yamaha riders achieved - Toprak Razgatlioglu became world champion, Locatelli was top rookie with fourth overall and Garrett Gerloff claimed the independent riders’ title - is a relatively big disappointment. 

The best way to measure Nozane’s rookie season is to compare that of Gerloff in 2020 which was on identical machinery. The American secured 12 top ten results including three podiums, while Nozane had just three top tens results. 

His best finish of the year did come during the final race of the year in Mandalika which is a positive in terms of momentum for 2022, but with the R1 being arguably the best bike on the grid and several top prospects in WorldSSP looking for a Yamaha WorldSBK ride, Nozane will need to significantly improve this year is he’s to retain his seat going forward.

4: Garrett Gerloff

One place ahead of Nozane on this list is his team-mate Gerloff. While the 26 year-old didn’t have a bad year by any means, it was a season where Gerloff was expected to become a consistent top five finisher, which instead happened just seven times in 37 races. 

Contact with several riders due to mistakes was followed by a considerable lack of confidence and pace, particularly during the early stages of races. 

Following his 2020 season, a year where he had more podiums than 2021 despite having 13 races less, Gerloff was in the running for a MotoGP seat. 

And while Gerloff is in no real danger of losing his GRT Yamaha ride as it stands, the results of 2021 have pretty much ruled out a switch to MotoGP. 

Gerloff will now need a big 2022 season in order to position himself for a potential WorldSBK factory ride with Yamaha or another manufacturer. 

3: Alex Lowes

We’ve put Alex Lowes on this list, not because of bad performances since joining Kawasaki, in fact, the Brit has been very good when healthy. However, Lowes has suffered from his fair share of DNF’s especially compared to team-mate Jonathan Rea, while also missing a considerable amount of time due to injury. 

After starting the opening round with three podiums from three, Lowes managed just two rostrum results the rest of the way. 

Lowes, who looked set for a top five championship finish during the early part of 2021, missed a total of seven races which played a significant role in him sliding down to eighth in the end.

If Lowes can remain injury free in 2022, then a return to the top five in the championship is possible, but with the current grid being one of the strongest in recent seasons and both Yamaha and Ducati having a slightly better package last year, it won’t be an easy task for the former BSB champion. 

2: Michael Rinaldi

Michael Rinaldi contended for fourth place in the 2021 world championship pretty much from start-to-finish. And while there were impressive signs in his first season with Ducati such as his double victory in Misano and one win in Catalunya, there were also too many inconsistencies. 

With Ducati desperately wanting to win the world championship, something they haven’t achieved since 2011, Rinaldi is seen as one of the riders who can help deliver on that.

However, the Italian was a whopping 219 points behind team-mate Scott Redding come the end of the 2021 season, while it won’t get any easier this year as Alvaro Bautista, winner of 16 races in just one season with Ducati returns to the team. 

Like Gerloff there is a lot of young talent in Ducati’s ranks, none more than Bassani who will be eyeing up a ride in the top team from 2023 onwards. For Rinaldi it means getting the better of Bautista should be his number one aim, but whether that can help bring a world title remains to be seen. 

1: Eugene Laverty

Coming in at number one on this list is Bonovo BMW rider Eugene Laverty. The former MotoGP rider is without a WorldSBK podium since 2018 and has struggled to find the form he showed at Aprilia from 2012-13 and 2018. 

Going into his third season with BMW in 2022, Laverty will have extremely tough competition to deal with as Baz returns to the series following a year in MotoAmerica. 

We’ve already seen what Baz was capable of when he stepped-in for an injured Chaz Davies last season - two podiums in five races. 

If Laverty is convincingly beaten by Baz then it could signal the end of the Irish rider’s time in WorldSBK, which is why the 35 year-old needs a big season.

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