Lecuona feeling the love in WorldSBK, 'Honda believe in me'

After two tough years in MotoGP, Iker Lecuona is feeling valued in WorldSBK as Honda ‘believed in me from the moment I arrived’.
Iker Lecuona, Team HRC Honda WorldSBK Assen
Iker Lecuona, Team HRC Honda WorldSBK Assen

Off the back of a first WorldSBK podium in just his second race weekend in the championship, Lecuona has stamped his authority as the top rookie thus far. 

The Honda rider, who was of course fortunate that reigning world champion Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea had a coming-together in race two, was a very deserving podium finisher after holding off Andrea Locatelli for much of the race. 

Although Honda have made significant improvements from last season to this, the Japanese manufacturer remains fourth in the pecking order, as has been demonstrated by Lecuona being the only non Kawasaki, Yamaha or Ducati rider to step on the rostrum. 

But with Lecuona showing incredible pace both in Aragon and Assen, the Spaniard might not be too far away from challenging for podiums on pure performance. 

“Honestly, a crazy weekend for me!” said Lecuona. “From P5 on the grid, I know that in the first few laps, I can make a gap with the guys in the second group and maybe try to fight for the podium. 

“In the moment of the crash with Rea and Razgatlioglu, I said ‘this is the time to push’. I overtook Alvaro and Andrea; I tried to push and make a gap, but I knew that Alvaro was fast, so I tried to follow him and make more of a gap. 

Iker Lecuona and Andrea Locatelli, Assen WorldSBK race2, 24 April
Iker Lecuona and Andrea Locatelli, Assen WorldSBK race2, 24 April

“Locatelli was also very fast and followed too. I struggled a lot with the rear tyre and had zero grip. I didn’t expect it, but I’m so happy to finish on the podium with Honda! 

‘Honda believes in me’ - Is Lecuona feeling more at home in WorldSBK than MotoGP?

After two years with the Tech 3 KTM team where a lack of time and perhaps support was given to Lecuona, the 22 year-old is having no such issues in WorldSBK. 

Both Lecuona and team-mate at the time, Danilo Petrucci, were pushed out in favour of Moto2 riders Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner, but with Lecuona in particular showing great form from the time of the announcement and thereafter, it was a decision many felt was unfair.

Leading an all-Spanish line-up at the factory Honda team, Lecuona feels he’s been backed from day-one: “From the moment I arrived, I felt like the team and the factory believed in me. This has been more important for me all weekend. I had two crashes but the Japanese guys and the team saying “eh, calm” because I did good work.

“I’m a rider that likes to adapt to the bike so that I can take all the profit that I can. My dad said last night that he believes in me more than anybody, more than my mum for example. 

“He knows very well and comes with me everywhere and knows that if I am focussed and do my 100% on the bike, I can fight for the podium. I said today is the day and to put everything on the line.”

Xavi Vierge in ‘save’ mode again during second WorldSBK round

While Lecuona was at the sharp end throughout all three Assen races, Xavi Vierge was surprisingly way off his younger team-mate. 

In fact, Vierge was close to 20 seconds down on Lecuona in race two, but with the ex-Moto2 rider still struggling for fitness, points finishes were the most Vierge could take away from the TT circuit.

Xavi Vierge, Assen WorldSBK, 24 April
Xavi Vierge, Assen WorldSBK, 24 April

“First of all, congratulations to my team-mate Iker and to the team because they’ve had an amazing weekend,” added Vierge, “I’m really happy for them and I think that these results also serve to motivate me. 

“On my side, I think we once again “saved” the weekend because even though I expected to be in a better physical condition before arriving here, we realized right from FP1 that I was going to suffer. 

“Looking at the positives, I completed all three races and collected some points. Now it will be extremely important over the next three weeks before Estoril to return to my normal life and start to train properly so that I can arrive in Portugal fully fit and fight to get where we want to be.”

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