WorldSBK 2023 Season Preview

The appeal of motorsports is all about speed and overtaking. The bikes start simultaneously, racing to be the fastest.

WorldSBK 2023 Season Preview

This is the same in track and field events and bicycle road races, but motorsports is unique in that the stage is a large race track, and speeds exceed 300 km/h. Riders compete at speeds that cannot be experienced in everyday life. Unable to know who will win until the checkered flag is one of the reasons why the sport is so exciting and captivating.

Road racing, which takes place on a race track, can be divided into two main championships. The MotoGP World Championship, in which the bikes are specifically designed for racing, and the Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK), where manufacturers’ best production road bikes (up to 1000cc/4-cylinders or 1200cc/2-cylinders) are race-tuned to compete. Maximum horsepower is estimated to be around 240hp, and depending on the venue, top speeds reach over 300 km/h.

Five manufacturers, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Ducati and BMW, currently compete in WorldSBK, all opting for 1000cc/4-cylinder bikes. Honda‘s WorldSBK bikes are based on its highly popular flagship model, the CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE, powered by Honda’s best ever inline 4-cylinder engine that extensively shares the essence of one of the world’s fastest MotoGP bikes, the RC213V.


WorldSBK started in 1988, with 750cc bikes that were monsters at the time. Honda joined the championship with with the VFR750R, which went into production in 1987, and won the title in 1988 and 1989. Honda then switched to the 1000cc/V2 powered VTR1000SP-1, as two-cylinder engines up to 1000cc were newly allowed to participate alongside the four-cylinder 750cc bikes. This bike also won the title. Later, in 2004, regulations were changed from 750cc to 1000cc for four-cylinder engines (1200cc for two-cylinder engines). From this year, Honda began competing with the CBR1000RR, which has been constantly refined to its current form, the CBR1000RR-R.

In its purely production model form, the Honda CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE SP that will compete in 2023 boasts the world’s highest maximum output of 160kW (14,500rpm / approx. 218hp), and in racing form, the highly tuned bike has even more horsepower.

The new racing bike set a top speed of 325.3km/h at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain and 326.3km/h at Phillip Island in Australia last year, making it the world’s fastest WorldSBK bike. Owners of the CBR1000RR-R will feel something special as it races at 300km/h or faster, speeds that they will never experience in real life.

Honda had not participated in WorldSBK as a factory team for a long time as it is a production model-based category, but resumed its activities in 2021 as Team HRC. This year marks the third year that Honda has fielded a factory team in WorldSBK. The CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE SP, which has been steadily improving over the past two years, aims to win its first grand prix, and fight for the championship.

Iker Lecuona
Iker Lecuona

Last season, Team HRC was represented by two young Spaniards, Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge. Lecuona raced in the Moto2 World Championship before moving to the MotoGP class, and was selected to race with Team HRC in 2022. Turned 23 in January, Lecuona has been winning the hearts of fans with his young, handsome looks and energetic riding. In his second race for the team, he clinched his first podium by finishing third in Race 2 in the Netherlands. In Round 8 in Catalunya, he demonstrated his speed, taking his first pole position. Missing two rounds at the end of the season due to injury, Lecuona looks back on 2022:

“Last year I learned a lot, taking pole position in Barcelona. In Assen, I didn't expect much from myself because it was still early in the season, but I managed to get on the podium. From then on, I was able to race aiming for the podium. It was my first time on Pirelli tires, so I was able to learn about the different characteristics, and the three-race Superbike format was hard to get used to, but this year I’ll take advantage of everything I learned in 2022.”

Later last year, Lecuona participated in the tests in Jerez, Spain, and Algarve, Portugal, in preparation for the start of the 2023 season. His growth highly anticipated this year, Lecuona was off to a good start, beginning with the shakedown of his new bike, and concentrating on bike and tire tests. Lecuona recalled, "I did a good job for two days, and most of all I had a lot of fun. That was most important for me.”

Enjoying the ride proves that the bike is set up right, and it feels completely natural. In every category, riders who say that they enjoy the bike have historically achieved good results, and raises the anticipation of how they will perform.

In the Portugal tests that followed, the team showed that they were in perfect shape, almost completing the test menu planned for the season-opener. They must have been able to cover the most important aspects of a high-powered racing machine: stopping, turning, and accelerating. The team was confident. In 2022, his first year in WorldSBK, Lecuona was disadvantaged as there were many tracks he had not experienced in his MotoGP days, but in 2023, his second year, this will not be a problem. There is no doubt that the crowds will be cheering Lecuona throughout the season.

Xavi Vierge
Xavi Vierge

25-year-old teammate and compatriot, Xavi Vierge, had a long career in the Moto2 class, on pure racing bikes, and last year was selected alongside Lecuona by HRC as a highly anticipated rider. Vierge, as was the case with Lecuona, was new to many of the race tracks in 2022, but he still managed perform at a high level by finishing within the top 10 throughout the season, and 10th overall.

“Last year was not an easy season for me because everything was a big challenge. We had some good results in some rounds and were able to race at our potential. We have already experienced many tracks this year and we understand the Pirelli tires and the electronic controls of the CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE SP. We just need to decide on the base settings for the start of the season. We have narrowed down our direction.”

In the first tests in Spain, Vierge started off by tackling what went wrong last season, and steadily covered the planned tests. After two days of testing, Vjerge, like Lecuona, was upbeat.

“The first test of the year was very motivating, especially with all the HRC staff coming from Japan. We made good progress with the set-up, taking several steps along the way.”

In the Portugal tests that followed, the team succeeded in making further progress, and Vierge was excited.

“In Jerez, we did a lot of tests and tried to find the right direction. This time, we found more direction with each lap, and along with Lecuona we really covered a lot of what we planned. Compared to last year, this year we will enter the season-opener in Australia with a great deal of confidence. I am also happy to have the season-opener in the warm Australian climate and the second round in tropical Indonesia. I can't wait for the season to start and see what this year will bring.”

Portimao Winter Test
Portimao Winter Test

Team HRC manager Leon Camier looks forward to the team riders’ second season:

“The 2022 World Superbike season was a good foundation year for our two young rookies. Throughout the season, we were able to see what they are both capable of and were impressed by the way in which they were able to quickly adapt to new circuits and different situations. Now that we’ve done a lot of the learning, we can aim to focus on race performance right from FP1. We’ve worked hard in a lot of areas and improved in many aspects. 2023 starts now, and we’re ready to go. The goal is to improve globally, both with the bike on the team’s side, and working to take another step more generally speaking. Our top speed has always been really good with the Fireblade, but we must keep working to improve in every area. When you bring a new spec of a given component to improve in one area, you sometimes find this sets you back in another area. This is something that Honda have been working very hard on in Japan and we are confident that this year we will make another step in the right direction. To expect to go from where we were last season to aiming for a title win will be very difficult, but this is essentially our goal, and one that we will keep working towards until we achieve it. ”

The last time a Honda factory team won the WorldSBK title was in 2002, when Colin Edwards rode the VTR1000SP-1 to victory. Since then, Honda has not competed as a factory team until 2021, but in 2006, James Toseland won the title with a Dutch team on a CBR1000RR. This year, Honda will try to regain the title for the first time since 2002 as a factory team and 2006 as a Honda team.

The 2023 season of WorldSBK, with the sheer speed and overtaking excitement, kicks off in Australia, and will be contented over thirteen rounds across the world. All eyes will be on what Team HRC can do in the three-race season-opener at Phillip Island, Australia.

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