The first of the WorldSBK races at Donington Park put Team HRC to the test, with Xavi Vierge crossing the line eleventh and team-mate Iker Lecuona crashing out in the final stages.
Lecuona and Vierge made the most of the dry conditions during the morning’s final brief free practice. The track was still a little damp in parts but gradually dried throughout the phase with lap times coming down in the final minutes, the Team HRC duo continuing their preparations ahead of the subsequent Superpole.
Lap times continued to tumble during the all-important Superpole qualifying session which fortunately ran in the dry, despite some ominous looking clouds. In what turned out to be a hard-fought session, Iker put in a 1’27.190 in the opening stages, a time that remained his best and saw him place thirteenth. Xavi’s best lap came mid-way through the session, a 1’27.579 putting him seventeenth on the grid for the afternoon’s Race 1.
Race 1 got underway at 2pm local time and ran over a distance of 23 laps in dry conditions. Lecuona got away fast and was up into tenth through the first turns. Vierge also made up a couple of positions and was lying fourteenth a few laps into the race. Getting into a rhythm through the initial stages, Xavi gradually moved up to within half a second of team-mate Iker towards the middle of the race, by which point both were lapping with similar lap times. Thirteenth and fourteenth heading into the final stages, Lecuona and Vierge held those positions until the penultimate lap, when Iker crashed out at turn 4, leaving Xavi to cross the line in eleventh place. Lecuona went to the circuit medical centre to be checked over but has fortunately sustained no injuries, although he was experiencing some pain in his left wrist.
Both riders and Team HRC are nevertheless ready to take the positives from today and harness what they have learned in tomorrow’s races.