Team HRC’s Xavi Vierge took his first steps on the WorldSBK podium as Sunday’s race action came to a conclusion in Indonesia.
Vierge did not win any race at Mandalika, but his first podium since joining the Superbike class, for third place in Race Two, was a personal kind of victory all in. “I have no words right now,” he said, before chatting out many more.
“We’ve tried so hard for this since the first day I jumped on the bike, but has been not easy. Sometimes we get close, but we always miss some tenths. After a really difficult start this season, the team gave me the support to stay calm. We prepared a plan to make many laps with a stable base. This gave me the opportunity to have the confidence back. Lap by lap, I got the speed.”
Better qualifying is key for Vierge, as he stated. “Since the beginning, we had a very good pace to fight for that position but of course we struggled a lot on the qualifying. So, we start from 13th position. This makes not an easy weekend, but just we can make a good start and finish seventh.
“Today we had the chance in the Superpole Race to win some great positions, and we achieved it.
“It was not easy because again the track, and the eight laps only that we did, and this helps a lot for the long race so, I’m super happy. I want to say thank you so much to Honda, to the team for the big support.”
Now the challenge is to replicate the success across the European season. Is the bike and rider package ready for this?
“It’s difficult because our bike from Australia to here is the same,” said the Spaniard. “In Australia I have so many problems because the tyres are so hard, so we are not able to ride like I want. Here with the softer component, more grip, I can be better. So it’s difficult to say. We see last year in some tracks we are better and in some we are a bit far away. But it looks like we made a step forward this year. Of course, everybody did it. For that, looks like sometimes not, but the reality is that I think we are getting closer.
“I hope that we can continue working in that direction to be trying to be always inside this top six. That is the objective. Every bike has its potential, let’s say. This weekend is the maximum of our maximum points, and tried to solve the weak points. So we do it like that. We have some parts that we are quite fast. We try to don’t lose so much in the sectors that we are struggling. So finally we made a good job.”
Xavi was asked why he seems to use much more lean angle than his peers. He grinned in recognition of this characteristic of his riding style, and was then asked if it had to be that way to keep his times strong?
“Let’s say to take the maximum of what we have, we need to make a base to have so much performance on braking, but of course lose a little bit of turning,” he admitted. “So I need to compensate with a lot more angle than the others. For that, it depends on the track. For example here with exhausted tyres, on good grip, I’m able to do it, but Australia was impossible for me.”
Honda were allowed to make chassis adjustments way more than the others at the end of last year, as part of the Super-concessions deal. So how much different is the bike, and did it make the difference to this podium place now?
“This is just what we are speaking now,” he explained. “Last year in the last two races of the year we had the opportunity to adjust a little bit more the bike to win performance in braking area, even if we lost a little bit of turning but we win more than we lose. But last year, the last two races were here and Phillip Island so it’s not easy to see really our performance.
“Also the winter pre-season has been not easy. We discovered also that we have some good pace with used tyres, but when we have new we are not able to take that performance that the others get. But anyway, we are working. Everybody is working you can imagine so hard. So I hope that step by step we are getting closer.”