Qualifying only 16th in Superpole was a serious disadvantage for Xavi Vierge, but his race finishes of 10-8-5 at least had him improving and heading in the right direction.
Even as a still relatively new WorldSBK rider, in his second year after moving over from Moto2, Xavi knows that there are some issues to be resolved before the big guns in WorldSBK can be truly spiked by the Honda.
“Like always, we are really far, especially from Ducati,” said a forthright Vierge. “But we are getting closer to Yamaha and Kawasaki. So, Misano a track that normally fits our bike quite good. Last year our race has been good or us. The test here some weeks ago was good.
"But on Saturday in the qualifying we had many problems. I don’t find the way to make a good lap. I catch the yellow flags and then the red flag. So starting 16th has been really difficult for us, especially here that is a track that is difficult to overtake. Also our weak point is the acceleration area, so we arrive quite far from everybody to overtake. So this makes our race really, really difficult. Also to go in the group, I had a problem with the front tyre, so goes really high temperature. Nothing more I can do.
"We know that today our key was to make a good Superpole race. We do it starting on the third row makes our life much easier. We show our pace. Finally finish top five, two seconds from the victory, is too much. But if we look for the podium, it’s just three seconds. So, at the moment right now, we need to forget a little bit the Ducati's, especially Alvaro, and try to be as close as we can to the Kawasaki and Yamaha guys.”
There has always a lot of talking about the potential of the Honda, but the reality is that there have been four third places since 2019, before Xavi’s first personal podium finish at Mandalika earlier this year. So the question is how can Honda extract this potential? Are there any more ideas, or is it still more about fine tuning?
“I think the team is making a really good job,” said Vierge. “I think we are taking the potential of what we have, but still we have so much potential on braking, for example. We make all the time on braking going in. But then from the edge (of the tyre) into the drive area, let’s say, we lose quite a lot. So this makes our life difficult. Also depends about the tracks. Depends on the layout and depends on the grip, we are struggling more than the other tracks. So at the moment, I think we need to keep our feet on the ground and try to take the maximum of what we have, that is try to be fighting inside the top six.”
There was a new Honda rear swingarm on show at Misano, and it did help a bit, said Vierge. “Yes, we did find improvements,” said Xavi. “In that part, we struggled the most that is a drive area we make a little step forward, but like always we are not enough. We improve, but everybody improves. Especially from last year to this year. New people come, Aegerter, Remy, Petrucci. The level I think is even higher, so to make a top six, top eight is really difficult. It’s just struggling a little bit. More people battling. The first on the top fifteen.”