It’s been a positive start to the year for Honda, and they’re not done yet, with hard work in Japan pushing the project forwards
The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship has been a thrilling encounter and after four rounds of the season, there’s a big battle brewing. Aiming to bridge the gap in the remainder of the year, Team HRC, with rookies Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge. Both riders have been inside the top five on numerous occasions, with Lecuona snatching a podium at Assen, whilst Vierge nearly took one at Misano in the Tissot Superpole Race, challenging Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) throughout. We caught up with team manager Leon Camier, as he assesses the season so far.
Firstly, talking about the results until now, Camier was more than happy: “I think it’s been a big success honestly; we’ve made progress on every front and the riders are performing super well, considering it’s their rookie year. To be honest, we didn’t expect this performance from them, I was expecting more up and down results, some circuits really difficult, they’d never been to Estoril for example but performance wise from them, it’s super impressive. Their attitude and way of working has been a big success, so we’re really happy with everything they’re doing. Bike-wise, we’ve made a step this year and continue to make improvements in certain areas and in the team side, we’re improving as well so all-in-all, a positive trend so far.”
After a strong winter test schedule which saw plenty of promise, Camier praised the work ethic of both of his rookie riders: “We did a really good test programme, and this was crucial to our performance this year. We made a lot of laps and race runs, especially with Xavi; Iker had an injury early on, so it was a little bit more difficult for him but he’s super-fast and caught up really well. We put a lot of work in with the time we had with Iker and making sure that he did a lot of good work and laps. The work ethic from both has been superb, so it’s quite easy when it’s like this. The results are a consequence of this.”
Camier then discussed Lecuona’s podium and whilst there was an element of luck involved, part of their pre-race plan worked: “Podium wise, we were a bit lucky when Jonny and Toprak came together and went down, but Iker was in the lead group from the start. We had a plan before the race and that he had to try and stay with the leaders. At Assen, the slipstream makes a massive difference, so the plan was to use the tyre at the beginning of the race and catch the slipstream and go with them for as long as possible. He did that and managed to get the podium. I think in general, there’s been a lot of successes this year. A lot of positive races but we need to make a step; our goal is not to be finishing here but we understand reality right now. We need to make a step if we’re going to get on the podium and fight for wins.”
Talking about the potential for more podiums and fighting for victory, Camier didn’t rule it out, with hard work being undertaken back in Japan by the engineers to develop the project further: “Right now our position is a little bit more fourth to sixth but right conditions, right time, I don’t see why not. I think on the right circuit, I think we can. We still have some ideas for improvements as well, so we’re not stuck by any means. We know the direction we need to go with the bike and Japan is working very, very hard on this and we’re very optimistic for the rest of the year.”
When asked what he can tell us about 2023 and silly season, Camier simply replied, “nothing”, choosing to keep cards close to his chest as to who will be Iker Lecuona’s teammate in the 2023 season.
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