Iker Lecuona ‘frustrated’ as flat tire ends impressive WorldSBK run | World Superbikes

The favorite to claim rookie of the year honors, Lecuona has been nothing short of brilliant throughout the opening six rounds of his WorldSBK career.

Having finished no lower than tenth in any race prior to last weekend’s Czech round, the former MotoGP rider has been a model for consistency on a Honda CBR1000RR-R that’s taken major steps forward since last season.

And while another top six finish was potentially on the cards during race two at Most, a flat tire with just two laps remaining ended all hope of the Spaniard battling Andrea Locatelli and Garrett Gerloff.

“What can I say? I’m very frustrated with the final outcome, for many reasons. In the warm-up I felt so good and was fast and consistent lap after lap,” added Lecuona.

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“I knew we could run a strong sprint race in order to gain positions on the grid for race two. The start of the Superpole race was particularly chaotic, with a few riders running wide through the chicane and cutting in front of me, which meant I dropped to P14.

“But I was feeling so good that I was able to catch up again, moving up to seventh, almost sixth actually but I couldn’t quite engineer a last lap fight with Locatelli. I was very happy with everything anyway.

“Unfortunately, though, in race two, things turned out a lot worse as I wasn’t comfortable with the rear, which felt nothing like it had in the previous race or yesterday. So the gap between me and Gerloff and Locatelli increased.

“Initially, I couldn’t understand why but then, with just two laps to go, I felt the rear tire give up and I was forced to stop with a flat tire along the straight. I’m very sad with what is our first DNF of the season, as it was not something we could do anything about.

“Not only has our points-scoring run come to an end, but we also missed out on the chance to move back into fifth position in the championship. I’m frustrated about what happened.”

Honda remain one of two full factory WorldSBK teams yet to finalize their 2023 line-up

While Lecuona is already signed up for the 2023 campaign, Team HRC are yet to confirm whether fellow rookie Xavi Vierge will remain with the team.

Vierge, who has dealt with various injury problems since making his Superbike debut, has shown promise during races although pace over one lap has proved much tougher to find.

Hoping to remain at Team HRC next year, Vierge added: “I’m really happy with Honda, with all the staff and team, and I think everyone is happy with me. I think after the summer break we will have some more news.

“We don’t speak so much about that. We are happy with each other. I’m really happy and feeling like I’m in a really competitive team. We are making big progress.

“We are not fighting for the positions we want, and we deserve, but we’re always working really hard. I think if we continue like that, we will arrive.”

It would be a surprise to see Honda move on from Vierge if such a decision was made given the former Moto2 rider is not only a rookie, but has at times been quicker than Lecuona in race conditions.

But one rider who could be of interest should he fail to get the second Aruba.it Ducati ride is Axel Bassani.

“I don’t know,” said Bassani when asked about the rumors linking him to Honda. “I’m focused on track. Out of the track, it’s the job of my manager. Afterwards, I will speak to my manager and ask him.

“Honda is Honda; they have really good potential. It’s not great at the moment but on the right way. I think we are doing a good job. All the riders want a factory bike, so we will see.”