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