WorldSBK 2023 Review: Vierge’s First Podium, 10th Place for the Season

In the FIM Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK), the pinnacle of production motorcycle-based road racing, Team HRC fielded two CBR1000RR-R FIREBLADE SP racing bikes and was represented once again by riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge.

WorldSBK 2023 Review: Vierge’s First Podium, 10th Place for the Season

Both riders have completed a large number of pre-season tests and tackled the season fully prepared and confident.

Solid Performance in the Opening Rounds
Vierge Scores his First Podium

The season kicked off in Phillip Island, Australia, and despite the first day's races being held in fully wet conditions, both Lecuona and Vierge had strong starts to the season finishing sixth and seventh respectively. The weather recovered the following day, and in Race 2, Lecuona finished sixth once again with a strong performance, and Vierge managed to score points, crossing the line in 11th.

Round 2, Indonesia, was held at the Mandalika International Street Circuit. In Race 1, Vierge steadily improved his position from 13th on the grid to finish seventh. In the Super Pole race the following day, he finished sixth, earning him a second row grid position for Race 2. In this race, he battled for third, broke free on the final lap, and finished third, his first podium in his second season and 14th round in WorldSBK.

Xavi Vierge at Round 2, Indonesia
Xavi Vierge at Round 2, Indonesia

Round 4 was held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain, home track for both riders. In contrast to a no-points result in Round 3 in the Netherlands, Lecuona shined. After qualifying fifth on the grid, he briefly dropped back to 12th in Race 1, but finished sixth, and in the spring race, made up four positions on the last lap to finish fourth, only 0.483 seconds behind third place, under difficult conditions where it started to rain towards the end of the race. Vierge finished sixth in Race 2, and both riders were within the top 10 in all three races.

In Round 5, Italy, Vierge had a good run on the second day, jumping from 16th on the grid to eighth in the sprint race, and then finishing fifth in Race 2. He steadily improved his position from Qualifying through to the race for a satisfying round. In contrast, Lecuona finished eighth in Race 1, but injured his left hip and ankle in a fall during the sprint race, and missed Race 2.

Xavi Vierge at Round 5, Italy
Xavi Vierge at Round 5, Italy

Tough Times Before the Summer Break

Round 6 in Donington Park, Great Britain was tough for both riders. Lecuona suffered a crash in Race 1 and subsequently started 13th in Race 2, finishing 14th. Vierge scored points in Race 1, but had technical issues in Race 2 and retired.

Round 7 in Italy was held on an extremely hot Imola Circuit. In Sunday's session, the temperature rose to 37℃ and the track went up to 59℃. Considering the physical condition of the riders, Race 2 was shortened from 19 to 15 laps. Both Team HRC riders had crashed during qualifying, leaving Vierge and Lecuona in tough grid spots, 13th and 17th respectively. In Race 1, Vierge had tire trouble and had to start from the back of the grid, but he rode hard and made up 13 positions to finish 12th. In Race 2, Lecuona finished tenth from 17th on the grid, gaining points despite the difficult circumstances.

In Race 1 of Round 8, the Czech Republic, tire selection proved to be the defining factor. With intermittent light rain, Lecuona chose intermediate tires for both the front and rear, while Vierge went with rain tires. As the race got underway, the rain stopped, and on lap 4, Vierge pitted for slick tires. It proved difficult for him to make up for the lost time against the intermediates, and he finished the race in 17th place. Lecuona, on the other hand, lost 20 places due to choas right after the start, but after a furious pursuit, moved up to eighth on lap 6, sixth on lap 7, and then to fifth on lap 21 with two laps remaining, earning him the best result of the season. In Race 2, Vierge and Lecuona finished ninth and 12th respectively. Going into the six-week summer break, Vierge was 10th overall, and Lecuona 13th. During the break, Vierge raced for Team HRC in the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race, contributing to the team's second consecutive Suzuka 8 Hours victory. Lecuona raced in the 9th round of MotoGP, the British GP as a substitute.

Iker Lecuona at Round 8, the Czech Republic
Iker Lecuona at Round 8, the Czech Republic

Team HRC Perseveres

Round 9, held at the Circuit de Magny-Cours in France kicked off the second half of the season. In Race 2, Lequona crashed, but a quick repair during a red-flag interruption allowed him to line up on the grid for the restart, allowing him to take the checkered flag in 11th place. Vierge finished ninth in both the SP and Race 2, maintaining tenth place overall.

With only three rounds remaining, Round 10 was held at Motorland Aragon. Both Team HRC riders were consistent, with Lecuona finishing sixth in both the SP and Race 2, and while Vierge was seventh and eighth.

Iker Lecuona at Round 10, Aragon
Iker Lecuona at Round 10, Aragon

Round 11 took place at the Algarve International Circuit in Portugal. Lecuona had a strong showing, finishing eighth in Race 1, fifth in the sprint, and seventh in Race 2. Vierge finished in the top 10 in Race 1 and the sprint, and in Race 2 he crashed and was at the back of the grid at the restart, but was able to catch up and finish 15th. With one round remaining Vierge was eighth in the overall standings, and Lecuona 12th, only 4 points behind.

The final round returned to Spain for a third time, this time at the Jerez Circuit. Lecuona was 14th on the grid, and Vierge 16th, but both managed to improve their positions to ninth and tenth respectively. In the sprint race, Lecuona crashed heavily after slipping on oil spilled by another rider. While proceedings were stopped due to a red flag, he was diagnosed as fit to race at the medical center. Enduring a lot of pain, Lecuona finished the sprint race in 13th and Race 2 in 16th place. Vierge finished tenth in Race 1 and 13th in Race 2 to earn points and finish the season.

Xavi Vierge and Iker Lecuona at Round 12, Spain
Xavi Vierge and Iker Lecuona at Round 12, Spain

At the conclusion of all 12 rounds of the 2023 season, Vierge was 10th overall with 149 points, and Lecuona was 13th with 143 points. Vierge’s third place finish in Round 2 was the team's only podium for the season.

On October 26, before the final round, the team announced that two-year contracts for both riders were renewed. Team HRC's challenge will continue as it aims for its first win since returning as a factory team.


Pos. Rider Num. Team Constr. Pts
1 Álvaro BAUTISTA 1 ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati Ducati 628
2 Toprak RAZGATLIOĞLU 54 Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK Yamaha 552
3 Jonathan REA 65 Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK Kawasaki 370
4 Andrea LOCATELLI 55 Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK Yamaha 327
5 Michael RUBEN RINALDI 21 ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati Ducati 251
6 Axel BASSANI 47 Motocorsa Racing Ducati 249
10 Xavi VIERGE 97 Team HRC Honda 149
13 Iker LECUONA 7 Team HRC Honda 143
24 Hannes SOOMER 38 PETRONAS MIE Racing HONDA Team Honda 1

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