On track on both Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 February, Team HRC tested alongside the rest of the WorldSBK field, exploiting two sessions of two hours each on both days and blessed by hot and sunny conditions, something the two factory riders particularly appreciated having not often experienced this at Phillip Island during their time in the MotoGP championship. Iker and Xavi nevertheless experienced some ups and downs as they worked tirelessly with their respective teams to iron out the details of their world championship preparation. Two crashes, on Monday and Tuesday morning, complicated things a bit more for Vierge, but he suffered no physical consequences and was able to further improve on his lap times. Lecuona traced a more linear path, progressing little by little in every session, especially in terms of his race pace on used tyres. There is nevertheless still room to improve when it comes to exploiting the new tyres.
The Team HRC engineers now have two days in which to analyse all the data collated and make final preparations for round one, with the first practice sessions of the season set to kick off on Friday morning.
In last season’s Australian finale, Vierge scored a best result of eighth in the races, while Lecuona was prevented from competing after having sustained injury at the previous Indonesian round. The factory riders will be looking to start 2023 with a bang, both fully fit and encouraged by the experience gained during 2022, their ‘rookie’ season.
The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit is located in the state of Victoria, to the south of Melbourne. Officially inaugurated in 1956, it is located on the coast which makes for a pretty spectacular backdrop. One of the riders’ favourite circuits, the track measures 4.445k and comprises twelve turns – 7 left-hand corners and 5 right-handers – as well as an 835-metre start/finish straight. Last year it was the stage for the final championship round, and so the 2023 quite literally begins where 2022 left off.
Iker Lecuona #7
“We end this two-day test with mixed feelings because we closed P8 but didn’t really understand why we couldn’t be faster. I felt good on the bike and felt it had good balance, but the reality is that we dropped tenths here and there and especially on new tyres. On used tyres we took a big step compared to last year because I now feel good on them and can ride consistently - this is important as we’ve resolved something that was critical for me and my riding style and that was causing me to struggle in the second part of the races. So we’ve made a step there, and that has us feeling that there is still more we can do with the bike setup, but our expectation were much higher going into this test to be honest, particularly here at a track I adore. We now have two days in which to analyse the electronics and data to understand what’s happening with the bike and decide how to approach the first race.”
Xavi Vierge #97
“Firstly, I want to say sorry and a huge thank you to the team because I had two crashes which meant the guys had to work so hard to make the repairs. They did an amazing job, as always, and provided me with a perfect bike for the final afternoon session. And, luckily, I suffered no physical consequences at all. The less positive aspect is that we struggled a lot more than expected, despite improving a little overall. Generally speaking, we’ve improved in terms of our race pace during the pre-season but are not yet able to exploit the fresh tyres. Nevertheless, we start the season fully fit and ready to give it our all – we will keep working hard just as we are used to doing.”