WorldSBK rookies Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge have identified current world champion Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jonathan Rea and Alvaro Bautista as the riders to beat in 2022.
The two Spaniards, who have already taken part in two WorldSBK tests at Jerez, are unlikely to be championship contenders during their first season due to both riders needing time to adjust to completely new bikes - Lecuona comes across from MotoGP and Vierge Moto2 - while Honda were also a considerable way behind the likes of Yamaha, Ducati and Kawasaki in 2021.
Add to that the fact Ben Spies remains the only rider to win the Superbike world championship as a rookie, therefore challenging the likes of Razgatlioglu, Rea and Bautista is more likely to come after their first season.
But when asked who their main rivals in WorldSBK will be following the team’s official 2022 bike presentation, the pair said: "I think the biggest rivals in WorldSBK are Toprak and Rea because Rea won for a lot of years and Toprak won last year but we know the level they have is very high," - Lecuona.
"If I’m honest, when I check the whole grid, I need to include Alvaro on this list because he’s with the Ducati bike. Rinaldi and also Xavi because he’s my teammate! There’s a lot of strong riders."
Vierge: "We are new in the championship but if we follow in the last test in Portimao, the guys to beat are, of course, Toprak, Rea but also Alvaro was really strong.
"We checked his race pace and for sure he will be there. The level, every year, is getting higher and higher and there will be many riders fighting for the top positions."
As stated by Vierge, Bautista was extremely strong during last week’s Portimao test, so if any rider has a chance of consistently challenging Razgatlioglu and Rea, it’s likely to be the returning Ducati rider.
Razgatlioglu, Rea and Bautista were a clear step ahead of the other six riders in attendance for said Portimao test, as the official lap record was broken by all three.