Race 1
WorldSBK 2023
Round 7

A determined Vierge fights back in Race 1 at Imola, Lecuona retires

it Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola

Team HRC is on track at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola for round seven of the 2023 Superbike World Championship.

A determined Vierge fights back in Race 1 at Imola, Lecuona retires

Team HRC is on track at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola for round seven of the 2023 Superbike World Championship. Competing at Imola for the first time, Team HRC and factory riders Xavi Vierge and Iker Lecuona made efficient use of Saturday morning’s third and final practice to improve their speed and pace, but a series of mishaps in qualifying and Race 1 put both Team HRC riders to the test. Vierge was nevertheless able to make a strong recovery from last on the grid to cross the line twelfth, while for Lecuona the race unfortunately ended in retirement.

The short qualifying session did not go to plan for either rider, with each suffering a crash that prevented them from securing the kind of grid positions they were aiming for. Vierge had set a 1’47.463 early on but was unlucky to crash through turn 11 while working to improve on that previous reference. He therefore placed thirteenth at the session’s end, securing a place on the fourth row of the grid for the afternoon’s race. Lecuona was also pushing to lower his lap time when he crashed in the final stages, at turn 22. A 1’47.360 set prior to his fall saw him close seventeenth, which meant a sixth row start for him in race 1. A disappointing outcome in that both riders could have done more had their session not been cut short in this way, but on a positive note, the pair came away unscathed.

Later in the day and on a hotter track (air temp. 38°C, track temp. 58°C), the Superbike riders lined up for the first of the weekend’s 19-lap races. Due to a tyre pressure issue on the grid, #97 was unfortunately forced back to the pits and had to begin the race from the back of the grid. This did not deter the Spaniard, who was able to make up eight positions over the course of lap one to move into sixteenth, right behind team-mate Lecuona, fifteenth. The Team HRC duo soon gained a position each, exchanging places on lap three. The first half of the race saw Vierge and Lecuona hold fourteenth and fifteenth respectively, before they again swapped places on lap eleven. Struggling with a small technical issue, on lap thirteen Iker unfortunately ran wide and dropped back to seventeenth place. He was forced to return to the pits shortly afterwards, having run onto the gravel once more. Xavi made the most of the final five laps, making up two positions to close twelfth and score four precious championship points. Considering that he started last on the grid, Vierge did very well to make up no less than fourteen positions during the course of the race.

Team HRC will be back out tomorrow for the short Superpole race and the last of the weekend’s full length Superbike.

Xavi Vierge
Xavi Vierge 97
Team HRC
It’s been a hard day of course but in terms of positives, in qualifying we were able to complete a first strong lap with the first tyre. With the second tyre, I was in the process of setting a fast time but unfortunately I lost the front at turn 12 and crashed. I also hit the wall, a fact that we should speak about. Anyway, despite this outcome, today has not gone so badly actually. The team did a very good job to prepare the bike for the race and we were unlucky to have an issue with the tyre that prevented us to start from our qualifying position but, again, if we take the positives, the team reacted so quickly that I was able to return to the track in time to pass the safety car and therefore take up last place on the grid instead of having to start from pitlane. I made a strong start and was able to pass many riders on lap one but then four or five laps in, I started struggling a lot. I could make the difference going in, but this caused the front tyre to overheat. tried my best to finish as strongly as possible, caught up to the group in front and placed P12. Of course it’s not what we want but considering everything that happened, we can say it was a solid race.

Iker Lecuona
Iker Lecuona 7
Team HRC
We are having a very challenging weekend so far. In FP3 we improved the feeling with respect to yesterday but not as much as we needed to, and then in qualifying I tried to put in a fast final lap but crashed in the last chicane. I maybe pushed too hard but sometimes that happens. You try to play with the limit and sometimes the limit comes for you. It was never going to be easy from P17 on the grid; as the race got underway I was lying mid-field but suffered due to the hot conditions. Lap by lap I found my rhythm, and when Xavi passed me I tried to stick with him and the group. When I felt that his pace dropped a little, I tried to push but then I started to have a little issue with the shifting and hit neutral through corner fourteen, running into the gravel. I tried to recover but I again ran onto the gravel and ultimately had to stop. Not the best way to finish a day in which we made some small steps forward but not enough to be able to fight as we would like.

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