The morning brought a final free practice session in which Lecuona was able to top the timesheets with an impressive lap time of 1’29.764. This proved to be the quickest lap set by any rider across the three free practice sessions in Australia. The cooler track conditions allowed almost the entire field to improve on their performance in FP1 and FP2, Vierge included, a 1’30.934 his best time and one that saw him round out practice in fourteenth place.
The first Superpole session ran in cloudy but dry conditions at 13.10 local time (CET +10). Keen to earn a good grid position for the season’s opening races, Lecuona set a 1’30.257 early on which proved to be his quickest overall time and saw him qualify eleventh. Team-mate Vierge completed the 15-minute phase with a time of 1’30.587, thanks to which he placed seventeenth. Team HRC thus qualified on the fourth and sixth row of the grid for Race 1.
The season’s first race was a little delayed after rain affected the timings of the previous WorldSSP race. The action began on a full wet track, with Lecuona and Vierge placing twelfth and thirteenth initially. Iker made good progress in the early stages, soon gaining confidence in the wet conditions and moving up to eighth place by lap three. Xavi was lying eleventh on lap seven and progressed to tenth soon afterwards. Both Team HRC riders continued to lap with very consistent times and gained further ground in the final stages. Having passed Redding five laps from the end, Lecuona was able to hold his position to close a strong sixth, followed closely by team-mate Vierge who finished seventh to score his first points of the 2023 season.
Team HRC will return to the Australian track tomorrow for the Superpole race and second Superbike race.
Iker Lecuona #7
“In the end P6 is not bad, also considering this was my first SBK race in fully wet conditions, even more challenging at this particular track. I learned a lot about the bike and the tyres during the race and felt good, able to make up several positions already in the first six or seven laps. And towards the end I was able to maintain good pace enough and defend myself from Redding so I can say I’m happy enough, but not totally because I know we could have done more. The Superpole is what annoyed me most because, after lapping in 1’29.7 in the morning, I was expecting to be faster. Maybe not on the front row but definitely the second. But I made a small mistake on my first lap with the first soft tyre, through turn four, and only managed to complete a "so and so" second lap, which was almost half a second slower than what I did in FP3 but ultimately my best in qualifying because I didn’t have a good feeling with the second soft tyre. So I’m a little disappointed about that but at least we did well in the race. We will see how weather conditions are tomorrow and try to use the Superpole race to improve our grid position for race 2, though this won’t be easy at a track where it’s very hard to overtake. But I have good feeling with the bike so let’s see!”
Xavi Vierge #97
“We are pleased with our race after such a difficult start to the weekend. In wet conditions I had real confidence in the front of the bike and was able to make passes and keep good pace to make up ground from what was a challenging grid position, and this is very important. It’s also “positive” that we experienced the same difficulties in the wet that we’ve experienced in dry conditions, in fact the lack of traction was even more evident in the wet. So in a way this gave us confirmation as well as lot of data that we can analyse and use to try to make a change to the setup tomorrow. Having said that, I want to thank the team because, like me, they never give up and have worked really hard again here. We will get there!”