Team HRC aim to bridge the gap as Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge dive into their second WorldSBK season.
Like every manufacturer, Honda have brought upgrades for 2023 as they look to refine their CBR 1000RR-R machine, including the likes of a new chassis weld point, a change in engine specifications, and a modified swingarm.
The super concession from last year was a new weld point on the chassis, giving Honda more variation with their potential geometry settings. The Japanese manufacturer also tried different electronics strategies to help with grip coming out of the corners during their latest testing.
Throughout the 2022 season, Team HRC had the odds against them as they presented an all rookie line-up of riders – with Iker Lecuona making the switch from MotoGP™, and Xavi Vierge, who made the switch from the Moto2™ World Championship to WorldSBK.
After a stellar rookie campaign in 2022, where he claimed Honda’s first pole position since 2016, Spanish sensation Iker Lecuona remains with Team HRC for 2023 after bringing youthful exuberance to WorldSBK after switching from MotoGP™, where he was a top six finisher. One podium finish in 2022 didn’t tell the full story of Lecuona’s season as he fought hard inside the top ten of the Championship in his maiden campaign.
Heading into 2023, Lecuona is keen to start the year strong, noting the biggest advantage going into this years season being his now knowledge of the tracks on the calendar for WorldSBK.
In bright positivity, Lecuona hailed that a new mental approach will be at the core of the team’s outlook: “For this year, we’ll start with a different mentality. We know the bike had the pole position in Barcelona, fourth places in many tracks, and the podium, so we have the potential. It helps a lot that [this year] we don’t have to learn the tracks. This is a very positive point and a strong point for us. I don’t want to put a big goal this year; for sure, I want to win and fight for the podium and both of us have the potential, but we need a little bit more time. I think we can do a very good second year in WorldSBK.”
Lecuona also commented on the strengths of Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Ducati as a package, while welcoming 2021 Moto2™ World Champion Remy Gardner, who will be joining the GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team.
“Alvaro with the new bike has a lot of potential and this package is unbelievable. I was very happy to join this paddock and this team, and I am very happy here. I know Remy is happy, we live in Andorra, and we meet-up to do some snowboarding. He’s happy to be here and change the Championship. He needs to learn this world, and it’s completely different!”
Lecuona also gave his thoughts on Danilo Petrucci’s arrival, a teammate from his time at KTM in MotoGP™ : “I’m very happy for Danilo honestly, as we struggled a lot when we were teammates. At the beginning of the year, we didn’t speak a lot because we were fighting for the position but when we knew the reality from KTM, we enjoyed the last five or six races a lot and he’s a great guy. He tried to help me, and I tried to help him. I think he’ll go very fast with the Ducati so I know I need to beat him, and I hope I can do it! I’m excited to be on track with him!”
Xavi Vierge graduated to the Moto2™ World Championship as a full-time rider in 2016, achieving top ten finishes and improving throughout the season. 2017 called and a first podium came at the Twin Ring Motegi, before adding two more to his tally in 2018.
Two seasons off the podium came next, despite him enjoying his best season in terms of final finishing position in 2020 with tenth. After a strong rookie campaign in 2022 with Team HRC, Vierge retained his seat for 2023 and will be looking for podium finishes.
Xavi spoke about his main objectives for the year to be consistently challenging for the podium: “After one year of experience for us, we’re a big step ahead compared to 2022 and we’ll start the weekends with a great base and a lot of information from last year. The season starts in a lot better place in Australia in their summer and then Indonesia. These are two circuits that I really like and that our bike works quite well, so we’ll try to take advantage to fight well.”
Vierge also shared similar words about the level of new riders entering the WorldSBK grid in 2023: “Next year, many riders are coming to the WorldSBK Championship and year by year, the level is growing. From the outside, you can see that there’s a lot of expectation, lots of good battles and a very high level. Over time, more and more people are getting interested.”
With the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s 2023 campaign starting shortly, launch season is well and truly upon the Championship. Team HRC have become the fifth and final factory team to reveal their colours for the 2023 campaign as riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge who are preparing for their second season with Team HRC. The livery features HRC’s traditional red, white and blue colour scheme throughout with the Japanese manufacturer aiming for podiums and wins in 2023. Check out the full gallery of the bike below!
Don’t miss a second of the action from the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round – 24 – 26th February 2023. Get your tickets HERE