It’s curtains up for Team HRC at Phillip Island with Lecuona in top 3 and Vierge seeking greater consistency

2023-02-28 14:32
The 2023 Superbike World Championship is officially a go at the Philip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Australia. Team HRC has completed the first practice sessions of this season-opener with factory riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge.

Out on track for the morning’s practice, both riders were keen to make a strong start to the weekend’s proceedings. Exploiting the warm and sunny conditions, Lecuona made an immediate impression, setting some very fast times in the early stages. Despite a small crash in the first session, Iker was nevertheless able to place third, with a time of 1’31.129, by the end of the first 45-minute practice. Vierge was not quite as quick off the mark as his team-mate, but he worked methodically and set a 1’31.972 to place thirteenth.

Later in the day, and in hotter conditions (air temp. 32°C, track 47°C), the pair continued to prepare for Saturday’s qualifying session and first race. Although lap times were generally slower due to the conditions, both Lecuona and Vierge made progress in terms of their level of feeling with the CBR1000RR-R, although Vierge seeks greater consistency around every sector of this tricky track. The Team HRC duo rounded out day one of this new championship season in third and sixteenth place overall, thanks to the times they set in a cooler FP1.

Tomorrow should bring cooler conditions and perhaps even rain, so Team HRC will need to be prepared for every scenario.

Iker Lecuona 7

“Everything went better than I expected today to be honest, considering that we struggled in different areas during this week’s tests. But I felt good right from the first lap this morning, so good that my first lap was in fact my best of the day! I could ride in a relaxed and natural way and was able to understand the bike and how it responded. I also had a small crash at turn 10 this morning but we know why it happened and I was totally fine afterwards, so no problems. In FP2, and with very hot track conditions, we were able to complete a long run and again my feeling with the bike was good and I could be consistent and comfortable. Alvaro is on another planet, but we are not far from being able to fight at the front. We made a change to the base setup, nothing huge but the feeling on the bike improved a lot, at least in these conditions. The forecast for tomorrow is a bit uncertain - temperatures might drop and there’s a chance of rain, but we’ll see. For today I’m happy anyway!”

Iker Lecuona

Xavi Vierge 97

“The season is finally underway! Today we worked very hard to find the way and improve some areas of the bike’s setup. The feeling is not too bad to be honest, but we are losing precious time through some sections of the track. We are very fast in some sectors but then have trouble in others and we must fix that. We’re struggling particularly in sector three, from turn six to turn ten. We’re losing half a second there and that makes a big difference in terms of the standings when everyone’s as close as they are here. We need to make a step forward tomorrow because our pace is not bad.”

Xavi Vierge

Free Practices Combined Results after FP2
Pos. Rider Num Nation Points Team Time/Gap
1 Bautista Alvaro 1 SPA 25 ARUBA Racing - Ducati 1'30.623
2 Locatelli Andrea 55 ITA 20 PATA YAMAHA with BRIXX WorldSBK 1'31.069 0.446
3 Lecuona Iker 7 SPA 16 Team HRC 1'31.129 0.506
4 Rinaldi Michael Ruben 21 ITA 13 ARUBA Racing - Ducati 1'31.157 0.534
5 Rea Jonathan 65 GBR 11 Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK 1'31.304 0.681

Source: HRC

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