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Big Changes for Honda WSB Effort in 2022 – New Riders, New Suspension and New Brakes

Honda had big plans for WSB with proven race winner Alvaro Bautista signed to pilot its new CBR1000RR-R. Unfortunately, the effort failed to bear significant fruit, which sees Bautista moving to Ducati for 2022 and Honda making both rider and component changes.

While Bautista and his former teammate Leon Haslam are moving on, Honda will race with youngsters Iker Lecuona (21) and Xavi Vierge (24) in 2022. The new pair have already done brief testing at Jerez (with Lecuona breaking his pinky finger and missing the final day of testing). Lecuona arrives from the KTM MotoGP satellite team, while Vierge is moving on from several years in Moto2.

Also new for 2022, Honda will run Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, replacing the comparable components from Ohlins and Brembo. We understand that Kawasaki has been running Showa suspension in WSB with BMW using Nissin brakes.

MD thinks the 21-year-old Lecuona is still blossoming and could be a future WSB champion. Any way you look at it, Honda doesn’t like to lose and will be pushing for big results in WSB next year.

33 Comments

  1. J Wilson says:

    Honda and HRC are bound and determined to make a success out of this generation CBR1000 in its various iterations, so far with uncharacteristically little success. Not only that, it scared several riders off of it at the IOM and they can’t keep anybody on it in WSB.

    They’ll never give up on it, but it’s interesting to watch them go nowhere.

    • Jeremy says:

      While I agree they are going nowhere, from my point of view, I consider Honda’s position concerning the CBR to be the opposite. To me, they seem bound and determines to let it fade into oblivion. Honda haven’t made any meaningful competitive changes to the stock bike in a while and don’t seem to invest much money at all in the WSB racing program. I honestly don’t think they care much about WSB.

  2. Grumpy farmer says:

    Maybe they’ll sign a deal with Kenda too.

  3. Delmartian says:

    Ahh, I used to watch AMA Superbike all the time back in the day, with very exciting and always entertaining battles between the likes of Ben Spies and Matt Mladin. I then began watching WSB when Spies made the move up the ladder and captured the championship in his rookie season. But I haven’t watched a full race in either series for many years now, having switched my attention to MotoGP in 2006 when Nicky Hayden did us Americans proud. I love watching MotoGP, as do many other commenters on MD, and just have no interest in watching Superbike or WSB anymore, other than following the headlines of who’s leading the championship, and who the winner and manufacturer are at the conclusion of the season. For those here who watch all three (SB, WSB and MotoGP) on a regular basis, does SB or WSB compare in excitement and entertainment value to MotoGP ? (and I’m not asking about Moto2 or Moto3 racing… yeah, heard it’s amazing and all, but that’s not the question.)

    • jim h says:

      WSBK is my favorite series. MotoGP has definitely gotten better in last years, what with the increased number of competitive riders/bikes. WSBK has had excellent participation by the manufacturers in last several years, and the riding is at a high level. Plus, I’m a Kawi fan, so kinda gone my way a bunch lately. Also somewhat relatable, as bikes are production based. I do also miss the heyday of U.S. Superbike. It was sweet back when manufacturers were intensely involved and the series meant something. Recession years and some shaky judgement by those in charge just killed that series.

    • Nick says:

      Yes, it’s a bit weird how we are so choosey.

      Being a bit cheap and not wanting to pay for moto coverage (and having poor streaming bandwith anyway) I watch most all of the racing available on the TV, WSB and the lower classes of MotoGP too. Guess what; they all consist of guys riding impressive bikes to the best of their capabilities with the cut and thrust of competition, far more capably than I could ever aspire to, or would want to. All classes of moto racing are exciting to watch!

      OK, if the names and reputation of the riders aren’t familiar, something is missing, but only because of previously ignoring them. The brands of bikes are largely the same, though I’d personally like to see my favourite represented in Moto2 and Moto3 too.

      Bottom line is choice of enthusiasm for televised racing is entirely arbitrary, unless you have some ridiculous hangup over the machinery that is trotted-out here again and again…

      Nick

    • Jeremy says:

      WSB had a pretty exciting championship challenge this year, but I don’t buy their streaming package anymore. MotoGP is better, IMO. The coverage, the bikes, the riders, the commentary – it just kind of makes WSB look like the minor leagues, which I guess is kind of what that series has become. Don’t get me wrong… You can see some great races in WSB, but I personally just can’t get as excited about it as I do MotoGP. YMMV.

    • Frank says:

      It definitely did in 2021 – the battles between Toprak and Rea where epic! I renewed my video subscription and it was worth it. Toprak such a talent – his braking ability alone…I don’t know how he gets that edge against some of the best riders in the world – I have not seen anything like him since Kevin Schwantz. And Rea such a tough champ – such a complete rider, had it not been for Toprak, he would easily had retained the crown. And now with Iker Lecuona joining the series, and so much more exciting happening, I will be a returning customer.

  4. Mick says:

    A long twenty years ago in a galaxy called the milky-way there was WSB and the AMA. Two racing series that received regular coverage globally and here at motorcycle every day.

    Then the empire mandated that four strokes become the hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes. Racers with names like Kevin, Kenny, Wayne, and Eric have been replaced with names like Iker and Xavi.

    Welcome to distopia. The force is dead and the four stroke death star impenetrable. There will be only prequels now and forever.

    • Rob Webb says:

      Well, aren’t you a ray of sunshine.

    • VLJ says:

      Not sure as to the whereabouts of the long-ago galaxy for which you’re pining away here, but WSB has been exclusively a four-stroke series since its inception in 1988, and no one on your list ever raced in WSB, other than Eric Bostrom (is that the Eric you’re referencing?), who only participated in a few guest rounds of the series. He never contested a full season in WSB. His brother Ben also never raced anything but four-strokes in WSB or AMA Superbikes.

      As for the AMA series, only Kenny from your list ever raced anything but four-strokes in the top class. Wayne, Kevin, and Eric all raced four-strokes exclusively in the AMA’s premier series.

      Bottom line, WSB’s glory days, and all their other days, were contested on four strokes. Merkel, Roche, Polen, Fogarty, Slight, Kocinski, Russell, Edwards, Corser, Bayliss, etc., all raced four strokes. The same is true of the AMA’s top series, AMA Superbike: Pridmore, Cooley, Merkel, Lawson, Shobert, Rainey, Schwantz, Polen, Russell, DuHamel, etc., all rode four strokes.

      So, apparently you missed a shit-ton of great racing. Either that, or you didn’t realize you were watching your favorite racing heroes go really super-duper fast on those wretched “diesels.”

      • Mick says:

        Prior to 2002 I went to races and would hang out at a bar to watch them with my buds. Since that time I refuse to support racing, including motocross, in any way. I get it that street bikes are four strokes. But selling four strokes as race bikes is selling a lie and I want no part of it.

        The one travel goal I ever had in life was to ride Europe and go to a GP race there. Life went on and I married a gal that likes to travel. I even lived in Europe for five years and rode the crap out of it. But by the time I got there GP was long dead to me.

        The only racing that I ever check out once in a while is hard Enduro. I’m interested to see how Beta and Sherco are coming along. After riding KTMs injected two strokes I have judged them not ready for prime time. My next new bike purchase ould very possibly be a Sherco. Even though I actually prefer Beta observed trials bikes, after decades of riding Gas Gas. I think Sherco might be the better dirt bike. Beta and Sherco are still carbureted.

        Whatever, I get my own kicks. Watching racing was a social activity done with guys that I don’t live near anymore. If I want to enjoy racing now, I just go race, on two stroke race bikes. I have owned and raced four strokes. But that was a failed experiment that will not be repeated.

        • MGNorge says:

          I don’t get your barrier to four-stroke race bikes. You’re free to like what you like of course but four-stroke bikes race just fine.

        • VLJ says:

          Okay, so you stopped watching roadracing in 2002, or thereabouts.

          What about before then? Going all the way back to the mid-’70s (AMA) and late ’80s (WSB), that still leaves you a full quarter of a century of AMA Superbike and World Superbike racing. Did you skip the entire AMA heyday of Rainey vs Schwantz? What about Doug Polen and Scott Russell? Jamie James, Doug Chandler, Bubba Shobert, etc.?

          Eraldo Ferraci vs Rob Muzzy? Yoshimura?

          Miguel DuHamel on crutches, unable to walk or even carry his own body weight, being lifted onto his bike by his crew before going out and winning a stunning Daytona 200 against many of the world’s best, shortly after suffering a compound fracture of his femur?

          You HAD to have watched at least some of that, as well as the Fogarty vs Aaron Slight wars, and Troy Bayliss vs Colin Edwards in WSB.

          You know too much about racing, and the history of racing, to have missed all that. I’m sure you saw a lot of it, and paid close attention…and it was all four strokes.

          Somehow, though, you’ve seemingly managed to erase all of it from your memory.

          What a bizarre mind-eff you’ve committed upon yourself.

          • Mick says:

            The good old days were the good old days because factory support was spread pretty evenly and widely. More racers could become professional and get food to their mouth. So more people tried and the talent pool produced a lot of talent.

            Then came the four stroke rules. Cost for motocross teams quadrupled. They suddenly couldn’t support as many racers or pay their racers as well. It became a much less attractive job.

            Road racing really took it in the shorts. Factory support all but vanished. The once mighty AMA became a nation wide club race. WSB became something that one OEM could buy.

            GP used to be the sun. Guys racing little overachiever bikes like wild men. The street bike series were the moon. Guys racing bikes that you can buy and tune to overachiever status.

            Then the sun became a moon that needed all sorts of money to attempt to look like the sun. The other moons went dark.

            Not one of you guys tried to sell me on the idea that the overall racing scene is better now did you? That would be a pretty tough sell wouldn’t it? How are sport bikes selling now days?

          • VLJ says:

            Nothing you said there applies to AMA roadracing or WSB racing, vis a vis four-strokes. Those series did not lose their factory support/level playing field or overall popularity due to a switch from two-strokes to four-strokes. The AMA series was nothing but four-strokes from the mid-’70s on, and WSB has always been nothing but four-strokes.

            AMA has become a club racing series, but it’s not because of the rules requiring four-strokes. The major factories, including almighty HRC, used to support the AMA teams.

            HRC RC30/RC45/RC51 ring any bells?

            https://www.sportbikerider.us/Honda/RC45-RVF750/Honda-RC45-RVF750-3852-GP.jpg

            Point being, whatever your gripe is concerning the decline of AMA and WSB roadracing, it has zero to do with your two-strokes vs four-strokes argument. The AMA never used two-strokes during the years you followed them. WSB never used them, period.

            You need to get your facts straight. A good start would be by differentiating between roadracing and motocross racing. Sure, the AMA Supercross and Motocross series saw a sea change when they switched from two-strokes to four-strokes, but in the world of roadracing only Grand Prix-level racing has seen a similar switch during your viewing lifetime. Otherwise, WSB, AMA, British Superbike and all other national series were at their peak popularity, with the fullest grids and most substantial factory-level support, while running four-strokes exclusively.

            Four-stroke technology is absolutely not the reason behind the decline in those series. The GSX-R750 and ZX-7R were always more popular than any TZ-750 could ever hope to be, both for the cash-poor privateer or the big-bucks factories.

            Faster, too.

          • VLJ says:

            As for your “which motor produced better racing?” argument, the answer is the four-stroke, and it’s not even close. It’s not debatable.

            Back when two-strokes ruled the roost, the lap times were massively slower, and the gaps between the podium guys, the mid-pack guys, and the backmarkers was similar to the Sunday Morning Ride at Stinson Beach. You had world championship-level racers routinely getting lapped, sometimes twice. The race winner might easily be seventeen seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.

            Check out the lap times during qualifying in MotoGP now. A half second often separates the entire Q2 group of twelve. The last-place guy on the starting grid is often just over a second off. During the race, the guy who finishes fifteenth is within ten seconds of the leader. The top ten is usually bunched up very closely.

            Go to Moto 2, and it’s even closer. The entire top twenty is separated by roughly a second.

            It was never that way during the halcyon two-stroke days of Agostini and Hailwood, back when there was only one or two full factory efforts on any given starting grid. The backmarkers were rolling speed bumps for the one or two truly fast guys.

            Yes, the Schwantz vs Rainey wars in 500cc GP racing were epic, but take a look at the rest of the field. Notice how spread out the finishers were back then. It was even worse during the KR vs Sheene era, which looked positively Moto3-like compared to the Agostini era.

          • Dave says:

            He doesn’t care about any of that and won’t acknowledge it. He just wants 2-dingers to return, no matter how little sense it makes.

          • Mick says:

            You guys are making my argument. You just think that you aren’t. It’s fascinating.

            The climate is not changing. The weather is different.

            Enjoy your TV show.

          • Mick says:

            This is neat. Just for kicks I did a quick fact check of VLJ’s claim that four strokes are faster.

            Moto3 is the only class left that has a GP displacement. I found a 2021 article about the lap record at Qutar being crushed in Moto3 with a 2:04.263. The lap record at Qutar for 250GP?
            1.59.379 Alex Debon 2008.

            Just for grins. The 2010 Moto2 lap record at Qutar was 2.02.537.

            Four strokes faster?

            Well, not by a LONG shot.

            I was all over the displacement increase in GP. It’s the mandated use of expensive obsolete engine designs that turned me away. That and the ridiculous handicap given to those designs. I would enjoy the hilarity of watching the four strokes try to hang with 768 and 1000cc two strokes. I’d almost buy a TV just to for that.

          • Dave says:

            Mick, you’re basically arguing that all motorcycle racing was better when dirt bikes ran 2-strokes. VLJ is pointing out that it wasn’t.

            It is no more expensive or difficult to buy a 600cc s bike and go racing now than it was in the late 90’s. Factories stopped supporting AMA superbike because viewers lost interest due to convoluted class structure and weak talent and sport bike sales began to wane for reasons unrelated to racing.

            Since you admit that you haven’t watched and supported motorcycle racing in America since 2002, I’ll tell you what you should’ve been told at the beginning. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

          • VLJ says:

            Mick, I’ve already addressed all your arguments.

            You haven’t addressed a single one of mine. Your factual errors have been presented to you, and have gone unanswered.

            In any case, it doesn’t matter whether it’s outright lap times or the competitiveness of the races, the switch to four-strokes in MotoGP has meant much faster bikes and, more importantly, much closer racing.

            On these points, there is no debate. You have no rebuttal, there is no rebuttal, so don’t even try.

            However, that’s not what we were talking about.

            Do you even recall your original point?

            Here, allow me to remind you…

            “A long twenty years ago in a galaxy called the milky-way there was WSB and the AMA. Two racing series that received regular coverage globally and here at motorcycle every day.

            “Then the empire mandated that four strokes become the hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes. Racers with names like Kevin, Kenny, Wayne, and Eric have been replaced with names like Iker and Xavi.”

            You were trying to claim that a switch to four-strokes ruined both AMA roadracing and WSB, which is a factual non sequitur. WSB never switched. WSB has always run nothing but four-strokes, and the top level of AMA roadracing has run nothing but four-strokes for longer than you’ve been following the sport.

            Wayne vs Kevin in AMA?

            Four-strokes.

            Amid your all-consuming obsession, you screwed up. You have your facts completely wrong.

            Admit your error. Own it, and move on.

          • Motoman says:

            So now we can add climate expert to your resume Mick? I don’t think so. Seems you don’t even get a basic fact like climate refers to global conditions and weather is local.

            However your mind wants to rationalize what is happening on Earth, the climate is changing to the detriment of life. You only need to open your eyes and observe the melting glaciers and polar caps and rising sea levels. There are many other negative impacts that you also likely ignore.

            Life will adapt and eventually flourish unlike you. But as long as you are happy everything is good in the world.

          • Mick says:

            You’re really chasing your tail VLJ. MotoGP going to four stroke diverted all the money to one series. Moto2 and 3 are supplied engine series and WSB and AMA were pretty much hung out to dry. You denying that doesn’t change anything. Going around and around about what was always four stroke doesn’t change current levels of support or coverage and when and why that support and that coverage abruptly changed. Nice job of glossing over the AMA two stroke series by the way.

            MotoGP really is the hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes. And it hasn’t done road racing or sport bike sales any favors. It’s a failed marketing experiment. Dad became a junkie and gave all the marketing money to the MotoGP dope dealer, and here we are. Hollowed out racing series and poor sales.

            Have I made that clear enough this time? Or am I supposed to beat around some bush for a while?

          • VLJ says:

            So, you still can’t bring yourself to admit to your factual errors.

            As always, pride goeth before the fall.

            Got it. You’re one of “those” guys.

            Anyway, you want to talk about two-strokes in the AMA? When was this? The premier class of AMA roadracing has seen nothing but four-strokes since the mid-’70s. The 250cc two-strokes were never anything but a support class; the minor leagues, as it were.

            I seem to recall Rich Oliver attempting to run a two-stroke in the premier class, with little success. It was a short-lived experiment, never repeated.

            The switch from two-strokes to four-strokes in MotoGP had nothing to do with the decline of AMA racing. One might argue that the switch in MotoGP hastened the decline in the popularity of WSB, since now we have two competing four-stroke world championships, and WSB is seen as the lesser brother, but the AMA series was unaffected. It fell apart entirely on its own, for a myriad of reasons: the Bill France Daytona 200 debacle; AMA mismanagement; the economic crash of 2008 that effectively killed sportbike sales in the U.S., etc.

            Has the switch hurt MotoGP? Judging by its increased TV ratings, greater network coverage, larger weekend attendance, faster lap times, and closer competition on the track, any sane person would have to conclude that the switch has proved highly beneficial to the series, and to its support classes, as well.

            GP racing is healthier than it’s ever been, in all regards. More so than at any other time in its history, GP motorcycle racing now stands nearly shoulder to shoulder alongside F1 car racing as the legitimate pinnacle of world championship-level motorsport.

            Whether it can sustain this momentum in the post-VR46 era remains to be seen, but that question has nothing to do with two-strokes vs four-strokes.

          • motorhead says:

            Have you ever tried to break into the mind of someone who believes the world is flat? Or who believes Santa Claus is totally real? Or it’s perfectly plausible to be eaten by a whale and then get spit up, alive and well, on a beach three days and three nights later? Yep.
            (Just to give you an example of how cultural immersion and your choice of media can alter your critical thinking skills, a study from 2007 showed that 62% of Icelanders believe in elves and fairies.)

          • Jeremy says:

            Wait… Elves and fairies aren’t real!?

    • Tom R says:

      Welcome to this week’s episode of Mick’s Anti Four-Stroke Gaslighting.

  5. RBS says:

    Every one of those changes sounds very much to me as if Honda is taking a step back in how serious they are about WSB. Not a single one sounds remotely like Honda is “pushing for big results in WSB next year:.

  6. Jeremy says:

    If Honda were truly investing in WSB, I think that they could do better than Lecuona and Vierge. They aren’t bad riders by any stretch, but I don’t think that either rider has shown anything that would imply we have a future champ on our hands. Vierge has been in Moto2 for five or six years now, and I can’t ever recall him winning a race. Lecuona has not shown anything spectacular either. Of course nothing about FQ’s pre-Premier Class career pointed to greatness, so who knows? Personally, I think Honda is in for another disappointing year.

    • Brinskee says:

      Couldn’t have said it better. If they are truly looking to win, they’d snag higher caliber riders with a checkbook that opens wider.

      Besides Bautista, there have been some other odd moves this year. It should be an interesting one.

    • Dave says:

      Agree. If they were serious about winning, they’d hire away top-5 MotoGP riders by paying them *more* than they earn in their factory MotoGP teams. I’ve no doubt that Showa and Nissin can produce competitive components, so long as they’re appropriately committed.

  7. warprints says:

    It would be great to have another competitive bike in the paddock.

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