Unpredictable weather and over-eager riding limit Team HRC’s potential at Phillip Island

2022-11-26 08:20
Not one of the WorldSBK races making up the Australian round escaped the whims of the unpredictable Australian spring weather, which meant riders had to gamble in the ever-changing conditions. Even so, Race 2 could have been an opportunity for Xavi Vierge to fight for the top five, considering his pace, had another rider not hit him from behind and forced him off track in the initial hectic stages of the race. Another top ten finish for Tetsuta Nagashima, despite the extreme conditions, says a lot about the talent and competitiveness of the Suzuka 8 Hours winner.

Team HRC and riders Vierge and Nagashima have rounded out the 2022 Superbike World Championship at the Australian track of Phillip Island with a best result of eighth and ninth respectively.

Vierge and Nagashima were on track at 1:00pm local time for the 10-lap Superpole race. Once again, the race was declared ‘wet’ and began on a wet track but in sunny conditions. Nagashima made a very strong start from tenth to position sixth through the first turns, immediately ahead of Vierge, seventh. Within the space of just a couple of laps, the track was already beginning to dry. Xavi, who had opted for an intermediate rear and rain front tyre soon progressed to sixth, while Tetsuta, who had selected a full rain solution, dropped back several places as the race developed. Xavi held on to finish the sprint race in eighth place, while Tetsuta crossed the line nineteenth.

The year’s final Superbike race ran later in the afternoon in dry conditions. The Superpole race results meant that Vierge started this last race from eighth on the grid and Nagashima from twelfth. Unfortunately, the Spaniard’s race was over almost before it began, a contact with another rider on the very first lap, at turn 2, ruling him out, although the rider was luckily unhurt and re-joined the race after a brief pitstop to assess the condition of the bike.

Nagashima was able to make an impressive recovery. Lying seventeenth by the end of the second lap, the Japanese found a very competitive rhythm and, lap by lap, was able to pass Mercado, Syahrin, Forés, Mahias, Baz and Van der Mark and climb to tenth by the mid-race point. On lap 15, he also caught and passed Bassani. Another couple of laps later, the race was red-flagged after two riders were involved in an incident. Nagashima thus concluded the race in ninth position, ending what has been an impressive debut SBK performance, considering the extremely tricky conditions in which the races ran.

Vierge concludes the 2022 championship in tenth place with a total of 164 points, not far behind team-mate Iker Lecuona who, unable to score points during the final two rounds, finished in ninth position with a tally of 189. Nagashima closes twenty-first having scored 13 points this weekend.

Team HRC will now focus on its preparations for the 2023 racing season, with testing set to commence in mid-December.

Tetsuta Nagashima 49
SPR P19 RC2 P9

“It was a fun but tough day. The Superpole race was a bit disappointing because, having I never tried the intermediate tyres, we opted for the wet spec front and rear and after two or three laps the tyres were already cooked. That’s the law of racing! It was a learning experience anyway. Race 2 was not so bad; I was happy enough with my pace but not with my start. I need some more racing practice in that respect, having lost some of that sensitivity. As I’ve said though, our pace was good and my feeling on the bike a bit better than yesterday. I’m still curious as to what we might have been able to do with a bit more time and more stable weather. In FP3 for example I crashed while following Jonathan because I hadn’t yet understood the limit of the Pirelli tyres – I have more to learn that’s for sure. Anyway, overall, this weekend has been a very enjoyable experience and I want to thank Honda and the team for this opportunity. I hope that, with the work done and data I’ve collected, they can keep improving. I look forward to seeing the team do well next year.”

Tetsuta Nagashima

Xavi Vierge 97

“It was another very difficult day due to the weather conditions, but I think we made the right decision to go with an intermediate rear in the Superpole race as it meant we gained a grid position for Race 2. Unfortunately, after making a very good start to Race 2, I was hit by another rider and crashed on the very first lap. I jumped back on the bike and pitted because there was a lot of mud, and I couldn’t be sure the handlebar and everything was OK. I then re-joined the race because, after such a tough weekend, it was important to assess my feeling on the bike after making a setup change. Somewhat regrettably, I have to say I felt good on the bike and that we had a good potential. We were able to lap faster than we had all weekend, and so that was the only positive to come out of this race. Again, I want to thank my team, HRC and everyone involved for working so hard all season long. We’ve not yet achieved the results we want and that I believe we deserve, but we’ve learned a lot and gained so much experience and will soon be back on track as we begin our preparations for next season.”

Xavi Vierge

Results Tissot Superpole Race
Pos. Rider Num Nation Points Team Time/Gap
1 Bautista Alvaro 19 SPA 12 ARUBA Racing - Ducati Time of Race 16'11.935
2 Razgatlioglu Toprak 1 TUR 9 PATA YAMAHA with BRIXX WorldSBK 3.285
3 Rea Jonathan 65 GBR 7 Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK 3.328
4 Lowes Alex 22 GBR 6 Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK 6.670
5 Locatelli Andrea 55 ITA 5 PATA YAMAHA with BRIXX WorldSBK

Source: HRC

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