Lecuona: ‘We’re still lacking something’ as gap to top teams remains

Although Iker Lecuona ‘felt much better’ at the two-day WorldSBK test in Portimao, the Honda rider remains concerned by the gap to the leaders.
Iker Lecuona, Team HRC Honda WorldSBK Portimao 2023
Iker Lecuona, Team HRC Honda WorldSBK Portimao 2023

Lecuona was the first non-Ducati, Yamaha or Kawasaki rider in Portimao after lapping a couple of tenths slower than the official WorldSBK lap record.

The problem for Lecuona and Honda however, was the fact that Alvaro Bautista, Jonathan Rea, Michael Ruben Rinaldi and Toprak Razgatlioglu were all under that same record, and by a hefty margin too.

While it remains a substantial amount of time lost, the seven tenths gap from Bautista back to Lecuona highlighted a step in the right direction, as day-two in Jerez saw the former Tech 3 KTM rider finish over a second down on the quickest time.

"I’m generally quite happy with these two days of testing, particularly today, more than I was with the Jerez sessions to be honest," said Lecuona. "It’s true that we started the day with a fast crash at corner 13. I just touched the front brake and lost the bike – perhaps I was a little over confident entering the corner. 

"I was thankfully unhurt, but my bike came off worse so apologies to my team and a big thank you to them for fixing the bike perfectly and quickly - they did an amazing job. 

"We’ve tested a lot of things but mainly focused on trying to feel good aboard the bike and on stopping and turning. At Jerez we basically tested everything, trying new items and a lot of different settings, and we ultimately struggled. 

"Here I felt much better, especially on the second day. We’re still lacking something because there is still a gap to the top in terms of lap times but we’re there in terms of pace. 

"We carried out a race simulation at the end of the day and I was able to be constant and fast until the end, something that I wasn’t able to do last year, so I can say we leave here happy. Now we’ll have to see where we are when we get to Australia."

While Lecuona managed to break the 1m 40s barrier on both bikes used, team-mate Xavi Vierge was considerably slower as his best time was just under half a second down on Lecuona.

However, some of the difference in lap time was due to Vierge being unable to get a clear lap in with the qualifying tyre. 

Vierge added: "We already worked well at Jerez last week, but during those sessions we were testing many things and looking for a direction, while here we already started out with a clearer base. Lap after lap we’ve improved, both in terms of performance and feeling, and have better understood how to move forward. 

Xavi Vierge Honda WorldSBK Portimao 2023
Xavi Vierge Honda WorldSBK Portimao 2023

"I’m sorry for the crash on day one but the team worked well, and we were then able to enjoy a trouble-free afternoon and second day. This test has been about putting everything together, and this has given me confidence. 

"We still have work to do but I definitely think we’ve taken a step forward. Today was another really good day for us, especially in the morning when we worked with the hard tyre. 

"Our race pace is really good, and it was just a pity that we weren’t able to exploit the soft tyre when the time came for a time attack, but we encountered some small issues that prevented us from completing a fast lap. 

"Having said that, the important thing is that we had good feeling on the bike on the hard tyre, because we will race on that spec here at Portimao and we improved a lot compared to last year. 

"We’ve enjoyed a good pre-season in Europe and now have a lot of data to analyse before we take a small break and then it’s next stop, Australia."

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