Honda's Iker Lecuona had a dramatic experience in race two at Estoril, as his front mudguard flew off before the WorldSBK action had even started.
“In the warmup lap,” affirmed Lecuona. “I arrived at corner one, it breaks. I listened and I felt something in the bike. I felt one piece to my right side, fast. I said, ‘no way!’ It’s not possible. I was in the front and I don’t have the piece. So, I said, it’s not very important for the race, but the problem is when I arrive corner three, four, six, I don’t have any brake. The brake is done. So, I’m scared because corner six it’s difficult to stop the bike. I tried to adjust, with the left hand, the brake. For this, I have a mistake and I went into the grass a little bit. Then after corner seven, I feel good brake, but I’m scared if something happen on the brake line or on the calipers. I’m on the limit to stop, if I’m honest.”
Lecuona almost pulled in, but changed his mind when he realised he should at least try to race on, and the bike was fundamentally OK. “When I reached corner 13, I put the leg outside the bike. I go in on the right side to check. I started to push and brake, push and brake, to feel what happened. I don’t feel nothing strange. I feel a lot of vibration when I brake, but the brake is still there. In the last moment, I said, ‘okay, I go to the grid’.
“When I got to the grid, I check. This mudguard is not there, but it doesn’t look really, really bad. But the reality is that when I start the race, it’s difficult to stop the bike. A lot of vibration. Difficult to manage the brake. Difficult to apply the angle with brake. On the straight, the bike moves a lot the front, full vibration. Very, very difficult, honestly. I lose the gap with one mistake. I went wide in corner one and I lost the gap with the top guys. Locatelli overtook me. I tried to push and to finish the race because also I’m not sure if I can finish the race. But lap-by-lap, I pumped the brakes and I adjust a little bit my style during the race to compensate this problem.”
It all worked out well in terms of scoring points again at the first circuit neither Lecuona not his teammate Xavi Vierge had ridden on. Like never, ever, not just as WorldSBK rookies.
“In the end, I’m fast. I’m one of the fastest on track because also I did a gap again with Bassani. I recovered almost 1.5 or 2 seconds to Loka.
"I recovered some time with the group. So, I’m happy because I can re-adapt everything during the race. But frustrated because I know it’s a good chance to stay in front. But to P6 from P4, I think, on a new track for us, we know this bike in this track is a bit difficult to go fast. I’m very happy to be fighting in the championship.”
After three very different tracks to start the championship season - Motorland, Assen and now Estoril - how has the bike performed at each? Same problems all the time, same advantages.
“In Aragon, I struggled a lot. In the second race I struggled a lot. It’s a difficult track for us. In Assen, I felt comfortable. The problem for the bike maybe is to jump quicker. But in the long corners, in Assen I feel good so it helps with my style. I can help the bike to turn quicker. So, I can go faster. Here Friday, I’m not convinced with the bike, but Saturday we improved a lot – the pace, the fastest lap, everything. I feel with a lot of confidence to do a good job during the races.
"We can lead a fierce race. We lose almost one second per lap, but in Superpole we used less because we stayed in front. Small mistakes, but I fight for the podium, so with Alvaro. In the second race we finished less than nine seconds in strange weather. All the race with some rain drops. But we will fight, keep the base. With the (mudguard) problem, I think we need to stay very happy about the weekend.”