Team HRC and rider Iker Lecuona put in an impressive performance during the morning’s all-important Superpole to secure pole position, the rider’s first of the season and the manufacturer’s first since 2016.
Team HRC and rider Iker Lecuona put in an impressive performance during the morning’s all-important Superpole to secure pole position, the rider’s first of the season and the manufacturer’s first since 2016. In the subsequent first race, the Spaniard battled long and hard for the podium until a lack of grip in the final laps forced him to settle for sixth.
The Superpole qualifying session got underway in dry, sunny conditions. Having dominated in two of three practice sessions, Lecuona’s first timed lap (1’41.330) in the brief 15-minute qualifying phase put him straight up into first place. In the final minutes, as the entire field returned to the track with a qualifying tyre, the Team HRC rider was able to further improve on his previous time, by more than half a second in fact. Showing incredible speed and a real affinity with his FIREBLADE and his home track, WorldSBK rookie Iker set an incredible 1’40.766 to secure his first pole of the season, and the first for Honda since 2016 (the last was scored by Michael Van der Mark at that year’s Thai round).
Team-mate Vierge started the session strong but couldn’t find the same grip with the second qualifying tyre in the final stages. With a best of 1’41.683, the Spaniard qualified ninth for the afternoon’s race.
Race 1 got underway as scheduled at 2pm local time. From the front of the grid, Lecuona lost a few positions off the line and was lying fifth through the first turns. Up into fourth on lap two, the Spaniard was able to stick with the frontrunners and pass Lowes to move into third on lap four. Lapping with almost identical pace to the riders immediately behind him, Iker had to pull out all the stops to defend his position. He was able to do so until lap fourteen, when three riders managed to pass him in quick succession. Fighting hard all the way to the line, Lecuona crossed the line a respectable sixth, although he had hoped for much more considering his front row start. He will nevertheless have another opportunity to exploit pole position in tomorrow morning’s Superpole race.
Twelfth by the end of lap one, Vierge made up one position in the early stages but had trouble making any further progress throughout the first half of the race. Managing to pass Baz at the mid-race point, Xavi continued to push but a significant gap had already opened up ahead of him, preventing him from making up any further ground. Vierge therefore crossed the line in twelfth place in this first Superbike race.