【2022 Season Review】Team HRC takes on new challenge with new riders. Lecuona on the podium
The FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) is the premier production-based motorcycle racing category. For the 2022 season, Team HRC recruited two new riders: Iker Lecuona, who competed in MotoGP until last season, and Xavi Vierge, who competed in the Moto2 class for seven seasons. With these two promising young riders, the new team took on the challenge of its third season as a factory team.
Lecuona on podium, great start for new team
The season-opener was held at Motorland Aragon in Spain for three days from April 8. In Race 1, Lecuona was off to a good start, and finished in sixth place. Both riders had a good start, finishing in the top 10 in all three races in their debut season.
In Round 2 at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands, Lecuona finished fifth in Race 1. In Race 2, he made a good start from the second row, and despite struggling with tire wear in the final laps, he finished thirrd to take his first podium finish in only his second race.
Round 3 in Portugal was held under unstable weather conditions. After struggling to finish sixth in Race 1, Lecuona finished fourth in the Superpole and started the final race from a good position. Despite a front fender falling off during warm-up, he finished the race in sixth place, a result that placed him in good stead for the next round.
Vierge had recovered from a pre-season rib injury, and finished fifth in Race 1, his best result of the season. Both riders had a good first half of the season in their debut year.
Round 4 was held in Emilia-Romagna. Lecuona rode consistently, finishing fifth in both the Superpole and in Race 2. In Misano, which Vierge considers his specialty since his Moto2 days, he improved his best result with fourth place in the Superpole race. He crashed in Race 2, though, and retired.
Round 5, at Donington Park in Great Britain, was another difficult race. Lecuona suffered from arm pump symptoms all weekend and finished a disappointing eighth in Race 1 and tenth in Race 2. Vierge also struggled with a broken right hand from a previous crash, but managed to finish within the points, with 13th place in both races.
In Round 6, the Czech Republic, Lecuona finished eighth in Race 1, and Vierge seventh in Race 2. In Race 2, Lecuona crashed and retired from the race, a disappointing result. Various factors hindered the team's progress mid-season, and they were unable to achieve their expected results.
Honda’s first pole in six years
After a month-long summer break following the Czech Republic round, WorldSBK kicked off its second half of the season at Magny-Cours, France, a track that both Honda riders had yet to experience. Both riders scored points in Race 1, but Lecuona’s tires gave out in the Superpole, leaving him without points, and Vierge retired from both the Superpole and Race 2.
Round 8, the Catalunya GP was the home race for both Honda riders. At a circuit familiar to both since their MotoGP days, Lecuona took his first pole position, Honda's first since 2016. Despite his speed, Lecuona struggled with his pace in the closing stages of Race 1, finishing sixth, and a crash in the Superpole forced him out of the race.
Vierge had better luck, steadily improving his position to twelfth in Race 1, seventh in the Superpole race, and sixth in Race 2. This was the first time since the season opener that Vierge scored points in all three races.
After a disappointing Round 9 in Portugal, the team had better results in Round 10, Argentina, with Lecuona fourth and Vierge ninth in Race 1. Leona was sixth and seventh in the Superpole and Race 2, while Vierge was eighth and sixth. Both riders put in a commendable effort to score points in all three races, at a track they had never experienced before.
Lecuona out due to injury, replacement Nagashima shines in final round
Round 11 at the Mandalica Circuit in Indonesia was also a first for both riders. Vierge finished sixth in Race 1, ninth in the Superpole and seventh in Race 2, scoring points in all three races. Lecuona, on the other hand, was injured after a crash during free practice, and had to miss the race.
The final round of the 2022 season was the Australian GP held at Phillip Island, from November 18 to 20. Test rider Tetsuta Nagashima stood in for Lecuona, who was injured in Indonesia and was unable to compete.
Race 1 was held in difficult conditions, starting wet and gradually drying out, resulting in the first flag-to-flag race of the season. His first time racing in this format, Vierge quashed all fears by recovering to eighth place across the finish line after dropping to tenth. Nagashima struggled on his first Pirelli wet tires, but after switching to slicks, moved up a position to finish tenth.
In the following Superpole race, Vierge finished eighth and scored points despite having to make a difficult tire choice due to unstable weather conditions. Nagashima finished 19th in the Superpole, but in the dry Race 2, he was ninth, achieving a single-digit finish in his WorldSBK debut.
Vierge was taken out in Race 2 after a crash, but returned to the pits to test his new setup and rejoined the race for a total of 12 laps.
In the first season for the new team, Lecuona missed the last two rounds but finished ninth overall with a pole and a podium. Vierge finished the season tenth overall, with a best finish of fourth in the Superpole race in Round 4. Team HRC plans to start testing at the end of 2022, aiming to win in the 2023 season.
Rd.01 Aragon：Team HRC makes its best season start to date
Rd.02 Dutch：Lecuona and Team HRC celebrate their first SBK podium this season, Vierge in the top nine
Rd.03 Portugal：An impressive Superbike Sunday for Lecuona at Estoril; Vierge enjoys his best weekend of the season so far
Rd.04 Emilia-Romagna：Three top five finishes for Team HRC on Sunday at Misano
Rd.05 British：Hard-earned points for Team HRC at Donington
Rd.06 Czech：Top seven for Vierge in race 2, a blameless Lecuona forced to retire
Rd.07 France：Untapped potential for Team HRC at Magny-Cours
Rd.08 Catalunya：Race results fail to reflect the Team HRC riders’ potential at Barcelona
Rd.09 Portugal：Double top ten for Vierge on Sunday at Portimão
Rd.10 Argentina：Vierge and Lecuona on the attack during a strong weekend at Villicum
Rd.11 Indonesia：Vierge boosts his points tally in Indonesia
Rd.12 Australia：Unpredictable weather and over-eager riding limit Team HRC’s potential at Phillip Island
|1||Álvaro BAUTISTA||19||ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati||Ducati||601|
|2||Toprak RAZGATLIOĞLU||1||PATA Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK||Yamaha||529|
|3||Jonathan REA||65||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK||Kawasaki||502|
|4||Michael RUBEN RINALDI||21||ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati||Ducati||293|
|5||Andrea LOCATELLI||55||PATA Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK||Yamaha||274|
|6||Alex LOWES||22||Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK||Kawasaki||272|
|9||Iker LECUONA||7||Team HRC||Honda||189|
|10||Xavi VIERGE||97||Team HRC||Honda||164|
|21||Tetsuta NAGASHIMA||49||Team HRC||Honda||13|
|23||Hafizh SYAHRIN BIN ABDULLAH||35||MIE Racing HONDA Team||Honda||10|
|29||Leandro MERCADO||36||MIE Racing HONDA Team||Honda||3|