Team HRC’s new recruits saw them bare the fruits of plenty of hard work in the winter with a double top seven finish…
The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship burst into life, and it was a race to remember with a fierce battle going right down until the final corner on the final lap. However, whilst there was a tense encounter at the front, it was a fantastic debut for rookies Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) and teammate Xavi Vierge, with both of them putting in a solid ride to come home in sixth and seventh.
Both had a race of two separate stories: starting with Lecuona, he was coming from a rather impressive seventh on the grid and made a rapid start, rising through the ranks to fifth by the end of the first sector. Hanging on to the lead group for as long as possible before slowly dropping back, Lecuona would soon be battling with Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK). Lowes crashed out not long after clearing Lecuona, although Locatelli had found his way through, leaving Lecuona in P6.
For Vierge, he would have to come from row five after only being able to bag the 13th-fastest time in WorldSBK’s opening Tissot Superpole session of the season. Still, Vierge – like his teammate – made an impressive start and was eighth by the end of the first lap. With Lowes crashing, it elevated the Honda rider into the top seven, where he remained for the rest of the race, despite being pursued hard by Ukrainian super-sub, Illia Mykhalchyk (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team).
Speaking after the race, Lecuona – top rookie in the race, commented on his debut performance in the WorldSBK paddock: “A really good start in WorldSBK; P6 in the first race… I know the target is to finish in the first race and then go as far ahead as possible. I know the level is to do P7 and P8 but the pace I did in the first laps, I didn’t expect it! I improved a lot during the race and learnt a lot. I tried to follow Locatelli, but he went faster than me. I am very happy; it’s been a good start; we’ll see tomorrow in the races what happens, but I am happy.”
Lecuona also commented on having the fans cheering him on from track side: “To have all the guys, the friends and everyone here, it’s very important for us! A lot of people believe in me and want to support me. To feel this support after the race, or even before… I was on the grid, and I could hear some guys shouting “Iker! Iker! Iker!” like crazy, but I feel really good! I try to enjoy the race and do my best, and tomorrow we have another opportunity!”
For Vierge, he too got his WorldSBK career off to a good start: “It has been a really good race! Especially as 12 days ago I broke my rib and if in that moment, they said that I can get this result, I sign! I am really happy to do the first race and to finish, even with a great result. I think it’s the perfect result for us! Since Lap 2, I was very calm and riding so smooth to finish the race, because I didn’t know if I could arrive at the end. I found a way to go fast without pushing my body too much and we see we can achieve a good result. We need to check everything and for tomorrow, see if we can make a little step.”
Can they improve on Sunday? Will they crack the top five? Watch it all with the WorldSBK VideoPass!