Honda WorldSBK officially launched its 2022 line up on Tuesday morning as Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge start their new challenge.
Under the guidance of former WorldSBK front-runner Leon Camier as team manager, the two rookies are looking to impress as they make the jump from the MotoGP paddock to the Superbike World Championship, with the added pressure of three races a weekend.
“Three races in a weekend is physically demanding”, Lecuona said of the awaiting adventure. “Is a big challenge but is also good because I am a rider who if the limit is here, sometimes I like to play on the line. Sometimes I crash. So, with three races I have more chances to have a good result.”
The Spaniard has a completely new look for 2022 having changed manufacturer, championship and racing number for the new role. Lecuona will run ‘7’ on the front of his new Fireblade - having used 27 in MotoGP - partly due to his idol growing up, WorldSBK Champion Carlos Checa.
"When I start with the motorbikes I like Carlos Checa, always I go to see Checa with the number seven. I like this number but I when I go to Moto2 I could not use this number so I use 27 - because also I like Casey Stoner. This year for me I take a different way in my career I come to Superbike and I feel like it's something I need to change. If I change the championship, why not change now the number.
“I’m really happy,’ he said of the move. “When Honda come to speak with me to sign for Superbike, this became the first option for me, firstly because it’s a factory team, but also because it’s Honda. For me I think Honda is one of the best factories in the motorcycle world and I am really happy and really excited to start.
“I don’t think I have to change a lot my riding style. I am a rider and I can adapt and if the bike needs something I try to help the bike go faster. The feeling is completely different from the MotoGP to the Superbike. Completely different tyres, suspension, frame, everything is completely different so it’s something I need to learn. I need some laps, I need more kilometres but for now I am quite happy so we will see during the winter test; but I think it will be fine.”
Lecuona’s teammate also makes the move from one world championship to the other, but in the case of Vierge the leap from Moto2 requires additional adaptations.
“There’s a lot to learn yes, but I am quite lucky because we don’t start the season until April so we have the opportunity to make quite a lot of testing, so this helps to adapt myself to the bike,” the 24-year-old admitted. “The team is also helping me a lot.
“When, at the beginning of last season, I spoke with my manager and he told me about this possibility, I thought it was incredible, an opportunity to join a factory Honda team in World Superbike. So, we seized the opportunity to jump on board.
“We are two young riders who come from another championship, and everything is new for us. We have a lot of power, a lot of emotion, and we will push each other. I think the challenging part is when you come to a new championship with a new bike, new everything, if you have a teammate with experience in that championship, you can speak with him about the bike, the tyres etc. but we have Leon who was a rider for many years, so we can speak a lot with him, and he can help us. So I think we are a really competitive team.”
“It’s really exciting for me to start a new season as Team Manager for the Honda factory team in WorldSBK,” Camier explained. “I will put all my effort into improving, and to developing the team as best I can. Of course one of the main topics regarding the team is our all-new riders line up with the arrival of Iker and Xavi. First impressions have been really good to be honest.
“The speed they immediately demonstrated on the bike was impressive. We were quite surprised that they were able to get on the bike during the first test and immediately set good lap times.
“They both gave similar feedback, which is very positive for us, as it gives us a solid direction to work in, both this year and for the future. Technically, a few changes have been made to the bike and everyone is very excited about the work that’s been done in Japan. We know everyone has been working hard and we are keen to see what kind of progress we can make this year”.