WSB: Iker Lecuona already "feels like a factory rider" at Team HRC

Iker Lecuona is settling in well at Team HRC in WorldSBK
Iker Lecuona is settling in well at Team HRC in WorldSBK

Former MotoGP star Iker Lecuona has admitted that he already feels like a factory rider following his switch to the World Superbike Championship with Honda.

The Team HRC rider departed MotoGP after two years with Tech3 KTM, following the arrivals of Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez. He’s joined the official HRC-backed Honda squad alongside fellow WorldSBK newcomer Xavi Vierge.

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It’s the first time that the Spaniard has been involved with a full factory effort, despite Tech3’s strong links with KTM. Whilst factory parts did eventually arrive, Lecuona had to wait longer to try them. Despite only having one test on the Fireblade so far, Lecuona can already tell the difference within the garage.

“I was with KTM for two years with the same people,” Lecuona told the media at HRC’s 2022 event. “I’ve only spent three days (one test) with the HRC guys so far – and only one and a half days until I crashed, but I can feel the presence of the Japanese in the background and all the guys in the box are explaining every detail to me.

“So, even after doing only one test so far, I feel really good. I feel like a factory rider. It’s very nice to feel like this, I have a good opportunity. I’ve changed the direction of my career, but I feel this is the best thing to do. I’m really happy.”

Whilst he’s had plenty of Grand Prix experience at such a young age, Lecuona has already acknowledged that things are completely different in the Superbike class. He’ll need to adjust to a standard Superbike engine and Pirelli tyres, whilst the chassis, suspension and brakes are all new to Lecuona.

He found that out the hard way at the opening test at Jerez in December, injuring his left hand in a crash at turn 12 (Curva Ferrari).

“I need to forget all I know from MotoGP and Moto2 and start from zero. The brakes are very good, but they’re not the same as GP because they’re closer to the standard ones. This is also a heavier bike, so the stopping performance is not the same.

“My hand feels good now. I was with the doctor this morning and he gave me some good news; in six or seven days I’ll be able to ride again for the first time in a month. It’s not the best time to be injured because we eat a lot at Christmas and haven’t been able to do much sport to burn it off! Now I’m starting to ride the static bicycle and go to the gym to be ready for the first test.”

HRC have gone in a different direction this year after two seasons with veteran Leon Haslam and Alvaro Bautista. 2021 proved to be difficult, with Honda finishing last of the five factory teams.

Things did improve towards the end of the year, with Bautista securing two podiums, but it’s clear that neither Lecuona nor Vierge are expecting a title charge this year.

“We can’t say we can win at the moment,”Lecuona explained. “Leon [Camier] has told me the target is not to win the World Championship this year. I think it would be completely wrong to say we can fight for podiums in the first half of the season. But we do aim to be on the podium in the second half of the season.

“Honda want to win the World Championship and they had two very experienced riders and improved a lot, but now they want two younger riders with lots of talent. Xavi and I have a lot of energy and we’re giving more energy to the team. I could also feel the energy from the team from day one. They’re very happy to have us both in the box. We feel both the team and factory are very happy to have us both. I think Honda have chosen very well – for sure!”