What caused Honda to "struggle a lot" at Donington?

Wednesday, 5 July 2023 06:17 GMT

The Japanese manufacturer had a weekend to forget in the UK as they found it difficult to break into the top ten

Donington Park proved to be a difficult round for Team HRC and riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge as the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship hit the United Kingdom. The team’s best finish in the three races was 11th with neither Spaniard able to put their CBR1000RR-R machine into the top ten in either the Tissot Superpole session or the Prosecco DOC UK Round’s three races. Following the round, Lecuona and Vierge explained what went wrong and where they can improve heading to Imola.

Friday’s two free practice sessions were almost irrelevant to how the weekend unfolded due to the mixed conditions, but it was the only time a Honda appeared in the top ten. Lecuona took tenth, a second down on pacesetter Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), in FP1 which was mostly dry but with rain interrupting proceedings. Vierge finished this session in 17th. In FP2, neither set a lap time as the ran intensified in the afternoon.

In the only fully-dry practice session, Lecuona took 13th, more than two seconds down on Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) at the top of the standings, with Vierge a further three tenths back in 16th. Little changed, position wise, in the Tissot Superpole session either. Lecuona was 13th again while Vierge dropped to 17th although they had halved the gap between them and the leader compared to FP3.

In Race 1, Vierge took 11th spot while Lecuona crashed out in the final few laps as the team lost some of their advantage over BMW in the Manufacturers’ Championship; BMW finished with two bikes in the top ten. Lecuona and Vierge were 13th and 14th in the Superpole Race while Lecuona was the sole finisher for the team in Race 2. He came home in 14th while Vierge was forced to retire with a “small problem”. Honda scored seven points in the United Kingdom, while BMW closed the gap in the battle for fourth with a 24-point haul.

It contrasts massively from 2022 when Lecuona took a third-row grid slot for Race 1 and finished in eighth place, with Vierge just outside the top ten. Lecuona was seventh in last year’s Superpole Race while there was little to separate the duo in Race 2, with Lecuona completing the top ten and Vierge just over a second back in 13th.

Reflecting on Honda’s woes, Lecuona said: “I don’t want to say anything in general. I struggled. We don’t know why. In Race 1 when I crashed, I didn’t do anything. Everything was the same but, at the end of the race with the used tyre, I crashed. I didn’t do anything special. It’s not an easy moment for us. We struggled a lot. We don’t understand anything.  It’s not the best way. On Sunday, we tried different things. In the morning, it worked. In the afternoon, my start was fine but the first lap, with the new base, I couldn’t have a good warm up on the rear tyre so I almost crashed at Turn 7. I fell behind Tito. My pace was really good, really strong in the mid 1’27s or lower. We made a small step. Now we need to understand why and what changed on the bike and why we struggled like this.”

Looking back on a ‘tough’ weekend, Vierge said: “Of course this weekend was a tough one for us, and we didn’t expect to struggle so much here really. As always, me and the team worked very hard to try and achieve the maximum possible in every session. We were unable to score points on Sunday - in the Superpole Race we were not fast enough and in Race 2 we made a good start and were lying mid-pack but unfortunately, we had a small problem that forced me to pit. It’s the first time it’s happened to be fair, and better for it to happen in a race where we were struggling anyway rather than during a weekend where we’re fighting for a strong result.”

Can Honda bounce back at Imola? Find out using the WorldSBK VideoPass!