Honda PR from WSBK Race One in Catalunya

Sixth for Lecuona in race 1 at Barcelona with Vierge in eighth

Team HRC riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge cross the line sixth and eighth respectively in the first of the weekend’s Superbike World Championship races at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit in Spain.

The morning’s third and final free practice allowed both Lecuona and Vierge to make final refinements and preparations ahead of the qualifying session. Following two promising sessions on Friday, the Team HRC duo were determined to maximise the limited track time when Superpole got underway, both pushing to set the fastest possible lap times. With just two minutes to go, the session was stopped with a red flag when another rider crashed, his bike left in the run-off area. Back on track just a few minutes later, but with only a little over two minutes at their disposal, Iker was able to set a 1’40.783 in the final seconds, a time that was enough to secure him a worthy fifth place on the starting grid. Thanks to a 1’41.423 set in the early stages of the phase, Xavi qualified in twelfth position, meaning a fourth row start for him in the afternoon’s first race.

Race 1 ran in pretty hot conditions, similar to yesterday (air temp. 28°C, track temp. 47°C). From the second row of the grid, Lecuona unfortunately got caught up in traffic through the first turn and slipped back to twelfth. Contrarily, Vierge made a very fast start and moved up to seventh. Unfortunately a crash for Granado on lap four meant that the race was red flagged and restarted according to the quick start procedure. Riders assumed the positions that they held at the time of the incident, meaning that the HRC representatives lined up eighth (Xavi) and eleventh (Iker) for the restarted race.

A less than ideal start by Iker Lecuona saw him drop back to seventeenth place two corners in, a setback that he was able to recover from in part, moving back up into tenth place by the end of lap one, just behind his teammate in ninth. Lapping one behind the other through the opening stages, Xavi and Iker lay eighth and ninth on lap three and exchanged places soon afterwards. Up into seventh by lap seven, Lecuona ran a consistent second half of the race, demonstrating the exact same pace as the podium contenders but too far away to have any chance to fight for it. Passing Bassani in the final stages, Iker crossed the line sixth to score solid championship points once more. Running with very similar pace, but not fully comfortable with the rear grip, Vierge held ninth position through the central phase of the race before progressing to eighth in the final stages and closing hot on the heels of his team-mate.

Tomorrow, the Team HRC riders will be back out at the same track for the Superpole sprint race and second full length race.

Iker Lecuona 7

“Overall I’m happy with what we did today but not completely satisfied, of course. On the positive side I rode alone during qualifying, feeling confident, and was generally happy with my performance. It would have been better to be on the front row of course, but a small mistake through sector 3 meant I lost a fraction of a second and finished P5. I was happy with that anyway, but then we had the same problem as always, the start, which saw me lose the race through the very first corners basically. I dropped right down the field and then recovered to P11 but when the race restarted we lost even more ground early on. I’m quite frustrated and know I need to find more at the start, because the pace we have is quick enough for the podium. I finished P6 but could have done more had I not lost all that ground. The fact of the matter is that we have the level and the speed to be able to fight with the frontrunners. I want to thank the team because they’re doing a good job, but we need to find a solution for the start, because it’s an issue we already had last year too.”

Iker Lecuona

Xavi Vierge 97

“First I want to wish Eric a speedy recovery and hope he is doing OK. It was a difficult race for us to be honest, and the red flag in qualifying didn’t help either because we could not complete out final fast lap. In the race there was another red flag, but that was the same for everyone of course. When the race restarted we put in a new rear tyre but kept a used front, and this was a little hard to manage, with different levels of grip front and rear. I don’t seem to have enough confidence with the grip through the first laps and so I try to just hold on and save the tyres so that I can get to the line and see if the guys ahead of me suffer any drop in tyre performance over the last laps. That wasn’t the case today, but we finished the race anyway, which is important after Assen and because it means we have more data that we can perhaps use to take another small step tomorrow. If we are able to do that, we can stay with the guys in front.”

Xavi Vierge

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