Iker Lecuona is just 23 years old and yet it seems like he’s been around top level two wheeled racing for years…and he has.
After a spell in MotoGP he’s part of Team HRC’s World Superbike lineup with fellow Spaniard Xavi Vierge, both of them signing in 2022. A podium last season at the Dutch round and two pole positions saw his potential shine through, along with a debut win at the famous Suzuka 8 Hours for Honda.
Iker got the racing bug when he started watching racing at six years old and, spurred on by getting good results at school, his father would eventually buy him a pocket bike.
“The first time I jumped on a bike I was very excited. I remember I crashed early on as I opened the throttle, but I wanted to jump back on the bike and was very happy to have this feeling in the body, something different that I’d not experienced before.”
That set him off on the road to the pinnacle of premier class racing, MotoGP, in 2020 where he spent two seasons with Tech 3 Racing after impressing the team when he covered for Miguel Oliveira at the end of 2019, at the season ending Valencia race.
But it wasn’t to be as successful as he’d hoped for and he’s not afraid to admit that he struggled with the step up.
“At the end when I was in MotoGP I struggled a lot, I’d jumped up too early as I was just 19 years of age and I couldn’t enjoy it, develop my career properly or gain proper experience to move from Moto2 to MotoGP. I went very fast, but I made a lot of mistakes because I didn’t have the experience and always they wanted more and then you crash a lot, so I struggled in my second year of MotoGP.”
Iker is refreshingly honest about his struggles and he has a good support network of family and friends around him that have at times helped him when he’s thought about stopping his career due to injury.
“Almost three times it was very tough on my career. The first one is when I broke my leg in 2014, I was quite young, but I didn’t have any objectives at the time and after the injury, honestly, I wanted to finish with bikes because I knew it was very expensive and my dad was still working every day to help me and I didn’t know if I wanted to do it or not in my life.
The second time was in 2017 but at this time I was in the Moto2 World Championship and I had a big crash at the start of the season and during the year I struggled and crashed a lot so I didn’t believe in myself. So, I thought about a lot of things when I was on the bike, when normally you don't need to think and my attitude with my family and with my friends was not the best one.”
At the end of the 2017 season he wanted to finish and say goodbye to his racing as he felt it wasn’t for him, he liked bikes to enjoy and of course you have to sacrifice a lot of things for a professional career, but not at the expense of family and friends.
With a changed mindset after his time in MotoGP, he made the move to World Superbike and was proud of being offered a place in the official HRC factory team. It’s not been a fairytale for him or his teammate Xavi, but his aim is to win a World Championship.
"Of course I want to win. I think the next step for me, for my career is winning a championship because for me it’s something I’ve failed all my life. I arrived to MotoGP, I arrived to Superbike, I won the Suzuka 8 hours, that’s a very special race, but I think now it's time to find a way to win an important championship.”
The Suzuka 8 Hours is Japan’s most famous two-wheel endurance race and Honda have won it a record 29 times, so for Iker to win it first time out with Team HRC was a dream come true and he’s added his name to the list of Honda winners including his idol Valentino Rossi, Colin Edwards, Takumi Takahashi and now his teammate Xavi Vierge.
“Well Suzuka 8 Hours last year was amazing, during the race, everything was perfect. We exited first with my two teammates, Takumi Takahashi and Tetsuta Nagashima and we stayed first during the race, even with the safety cars, our pace was really good. The party, all the people, the ambience inside the paddock and with even with the other competitors was unbelievable. It's a feeling that was very beautiful to experience.”
He was down to race again in the 2023 edition alongside Xavi and Takumi, but fate would see him called up to replace the injured Alex Rins at the LCR Honda Team for the Silverstone MotoGP round. Having already been drafted in to cover for the injured Marc Marquez at the factory Repsol Honda Team in Spain and Assen, his pace at the Dutch TT saw him knocking on the door of the top ten of Sunday’s race.
“I was very happy when I had another chance to race, I’ve said it many times, but thanks to HRC for giving me another chance to ride MotoGP, it’s made me very happy. I was very close to a top 10 and I thought I can finish in the top 10 because I was P11 when I had an issue with the bike that stopped me from finishing the race. I'm happy to jump again on the MotoGP bike and I feel fast with a bike that is not easy to ride.”
To think only a few years ago, Iker was thinking of giving it up to do something else.
“I wanted to move to Super Motard to enjoy the life and to change a little bit. In my racing career it’s been important to have people around me and that’s my dad and my brother.
My dad has spent a lot of time and money on my career, because when I started I needed his help for sure. Since a few years ago, I’ve moved and I live alone but my brother comes and travels with me and always has. He is a good support for me, he’s gone through every hard moment and has stayed there for me, so without these people around me I don’t think I would have arrived to this level or continued with the same goal.”