"Important" to have test team alongside Team HRC, new items "improved bike a bit" for Lecuona

Thursday, 31 August 2023 12:24 GMT

Race riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge were joined by Tatsuta Nagashima at Aragon with all riders feeling positive after the test

Team HRC were on track at MotorLand Aragon with regular race riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge this week as they continued the development of the CBR100RR-R, and they were joined in Spain by test rider Tetsuta Nagashima. The Japanese rider was looking to the future with his testing programme as Honda look to make big gains ahead of the 2024 season to turn themselves into regular podium contenders.

With Nagashima on track, it was one of the first times since Honda re-joined WorldSBK as a full-factory team that they had their test team in Europe testing alongside the race riders. Nagashima racked up 165 laps across both days and set a best time of 1’51.026s. Although he finished last of the 12-strong WorldSBK field, Nagashima was adapting to the circuit and tyres throughout the test. His insight and feedback will no doubt prove valuable to both Lecuona and Vierge, with the Japanese star explaining how important it is for the test team to communicate in person with the race team.

Nagashima said: “This is quite important because, after COVID in 2020, normally Japanese people couldn’t travel to Europe. We have a test team in Japan, and we communicated with the European side via a computer. We can communicate like this but it’s not exactly the same as being here! We understand the problem, but we cannot work like normal. From this year, we came here with the test time and we can talk face-to-face. It’s quite important for me, Xavi, and Iker. I hope now they understand the problem much more.”

Lecuona showed strong pace throughout the test as he finished fourth on day one with a 1’50.950s, one of four riders in the 1’50s bracket. The #7 completed 48 laps on Tuesday before adding another 58 to his tally on Wednesday, where he found time on his bike. He posted a 1’49.466s in the morning, with the Spanish rider opting not to test on Wednesday afternoon. Despite this, he was fourth in the combined classification for day two.

Although he couldn’t detail what he had been trying, Lecuona was positive about the results. He explained: “Day two was quite good, I’m happy. We worked quite well and tried something new. I felt good. We improved my base a little bit and we can use the step we made in the round. I’m always one of the fastest riders in sector three, but I don’t know why! I like this sector. In sector one, I need to check properly. I’m really happy about the test. The new part helped a little bit everywhere. Braking was a bit similar as we’re always really strong under braking. The rest, I think we improved a bit, and the small details make a big different with the lap time.”

For Vierge, he was able to complete 161 laps across the two days as he focused on acceleration. The #97 was second on day one with a 1’50.619s and he followed that up on day two with a 1’49.984s. Finding more than half-a-second, Vierge finished the second day sixth in the classification but, like Nagashima and Lecuona, was left feeling positive.

Reviewing the test, he said: “The test has allowed me to gradually rebuild my confidence. We’ve focused on acceleration, one of our weak points, as this track is good for that kind of test because the grip is not the best. We gathered a great deal of information for the engineers to analyse and are ready for the second part of the season, when we will visit tracks that I think suit us better, so we’ll try to exploit that factor.”

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