Iker Lecuona’s second season with Team HRC kicks off on Friday as WorldSBK 2023 opens at Phillip Island in Australia.
While progress has been made with the Fireblade across the winter, testing both in Europe at Jerez and Portimao and at the start of this week at the PI Grand Prix Circuit proved more of a struggle than the Spaniard initially anticipated.
“Difficult, honestly,” Lecuona said following two days on track with the CBR1000RR-R in Australia. “Very difficult, more than what we expected. We do not understand many things. We struggle a lot.
“We actually start to feel that we made a big step during the winter but the reality is that Monday was… not a complete disaster because at the end of the day, I improved and we can see some light at the end of the tunnel, so we can see something in the bike but we need one full day to find the way. Tuesday we start stronger, we start on a good lap time but still we miss tenths and we didn’t know where.
“With used tyres I’m very good,” he admitted after completing the final pre-season test eighth overall with a personal best lap of 1’30.930. “I feel good. I feel constant, the pace was really strong. So feels good because we solve this area that last year we struggled at the end of the race but we miss a lot the first laps. We don’t know where, we need to check all the data. We need to understand why or where we lose this lap time.
“I don’t think is a special Philip Island problem because all the winter we struggle,” he continued. “When we arrive to Portimao, we’re improving a lot on the race pace, now, at the end of the race, we can keep it, the pace - that for me and especially for my style was more critical last year. So we’re improving a lot and we are optimistic but still we know that we need to still do a bigger step.
“I expected a bit more because I love this track. I always go fast and I love it, honestly. But in the beginning when I started riding, the first run I say ‘okay, maybe will be fine’ but after two or three runs I say ‘okay, we have a big problem’.
“The bike is too nervous, zero grip, difficult to stop, so everything was bad honestly on the bike.
“We are improving,” Lecuona reiterated. “If I put new tyre or old tyre the lap time is the same one, so it’s very positive because at the end of the race we can keep the pace but we miss a lot the first laps. We need time, we have two days rest, two days to check the data, to understand why or what we need to do. What we need to change from the bike for Friday and try something new, if we can make the step that we need.
“I cannot say to Japan or to the team ‘I need to improve this area’ because I feel a good balance on the bike. Just we miss tenths, we miss lap time. Where? This is the question.
“We have an okay feeling so it’s good because we don’t lose a crazy lap time in one area but we miss five, seven tenths in the beginning of the race for example, when there is a fresh tyre. Is what we need to put the focus now, checking the data, checking every run, every change we did on the bike to understand what we need to do for the first race.”