Vierge and Lecuona show fighting spirit to place 8th and 11th in a shortened race 1 at Portimão

As round nine of the Superbike World Championship continues at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Team HRC riders Xavi Vierge and Iker Lecuona have now completed the first of the weekend’s three races. Having wrestled all race long with a combination of unexpected difficulties, their race results - eighth and eleventh - speak volume about the young rookies’ fighting spirit and commitment.

After making some final adjustments during the third and final practice session, a session in which the entire field was able to set quicker times than yesterday, Team HRC headed out on track for Superpole. With just fifteen minutes in which to make an impression, Lecuona pushed hard to set 1’40.342 in the opening minutes. This remained his fastest time, enough for him to place tenth in a particularly tight battle that saw the top thirteen riders all within one second, meaning a fourth row start on the race 1 grid. Team-mate Vierge finished just three tenths behind (1’40.624) in thirteenth place, for a fifth-row start.

An incident during the SSP300 race meant that the first of the weekend’s two Superbike races got underway more than an hour later than scheduled, at 15.15 local time (CET-1). The delay meant that it was also necessary to shorten the race, from an originally planned 20 laps to just 14 laps. Lecuona lost a little ground off the line to find himself thirteenth through the first corners, while Vierge made a very strong start from the fifth row of the grid, moving up into tenth place through the first turns. Iker was soon up behind his team-mate, the Team HRC duo lapping with similar times to each other. Seven laps in and Vierge gained a position while Lecuona slipped one place back. Xavi was able to defend his position all the way to the line to finish eighth and earn a handful of precious championship points. In the final laps it became increasingly difficult for Iker to maintain strong pace, but he kept battling hard against the riders in his group until the very last corner, ultimately crossing the line eleventh.

Xavi Vierge
“It has been a difficult day for us, but our attitude is to learn and find the positives in every situation. Here we tried something on the bike that for sure is a step in the direction we want to go, but at the same time we were lacking a little in what is one of usually our strongest points, confidence with the front, which is quite important. So, the positive is that even with some unexpected issues we could run a solid race, and that we now have all afternoon to analyze the data and work to find good front feeling for tomorrow’s races. Thanks to the whole squad for their hard work and I send my prayers and best wishes to Victor Steeman who was injured in the Supersport 300 race.”

Iker Lecuona
“What can we say about today? Not what we expected or what we’re working towards of course. In this morning’s final free practice session, I felt good enough on the bike, testing tuning for the race and the soft tyre compound that I didn’t use yesterday. In the Superpole we weren’t able to fully exploit the extra grip of the qualifying tyre. We need to improve the setup to do that, so I would say that P10 is about right, considering how close the gaps were. But going into the race I was expecting much more, because our pace during the weekend hasn’t been bad at all, honestly. But the race got underway in warmer conditions than we saw in previous sessions, and I struggled a lot with the feeling in relation to every aspect of the bike setup. Not an easy race, and the fact it was shortened meant that when I did make a couple of small mistakes, I had no time to recover. It’s never easy to fight further back, but nevertheless I battled until the last corner for that eleventh place. I’m a fighter, but I know I need to adapt my mentality and be patient as I keep working for the future. Finally, and importantly, I want to send my best wishes to Victor Steeman. We all hope to hear good news soon."

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