WorldSBK: Honda’s Lecuona & Vierge Talk Superconcessions, Weight Limits

WorldSBK: Honda’s Lecuona & Vierge Talk Superconcessions, Weight Limits

© 2022, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

Copyright 2022, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

“We Start With A Different Mentality Than This Year…”

Honda’s Iker Lecuona And Xavi Vierge Talk 2023 WorldSBK Season

by Michael Gougis

On the eve of the WorldSBK winter test at Jerez, Honda’s factory racers Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge told the international media that, with new concessions in hand and a year of experience on the fast but challenging CBR1000RR-R, they fully expected to be fighting for better results in 2023 than they had in 2022.

“We have a lot of data (now), and we see the potential we have,” said Vierge, the former Moto2 World Championship podium finisher who has just completed his first season on the factory HRC Superbike team.

“For sure, we start with a different mentality than this year. We have potential. We start with the mentality that we can fight for the podium if everything is right,” echoed Lecuona, who raced three seasons in MotoGP on KTM’s satellite Tech3 squad before joining Honda’s WorldSBK team in 2022.


Iker Lecuona (7) wheelies over the crest of a hill at Algarve International Circuit on his factory HRC Honda CBR1000RR-R. Photo by Michael Gougis.
Iker Lecuona (7) wheelies over the crest of a hill at Algarve International Circuit on his factory HRC Honda CBR1000RR-R. Photo by Michael Gougis.


Lecuona scored the factory team’s only podium and its one pole position in 2022. That has to be placed in perspective: The team fielded two riders that were not only new to Honda, but to WorldSBK, and both struggled with injuries at different points in the season. Still, it was not the season Honda wanted.

Worse was that former HRC factory rider Alvaro Bautista, who scored only three podiums on his Honda in 2020 and 2021, returned to the factory Ducati team in 2022, went straight back to the front of the field, and took his first Superbike World Championship. It was hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that the weak component of the Bautista-Honda combination was the bike, not the rider.

In an attempt to create more competitive racing, WorldSBK regulations allow different manufacturers different specifications and concessions. Engine rev limits and chassis adjustments are different from manufacturer to manufacturer, and the series is considering imposing a minimum combined rider/machine weight limit.

For 2022, Honda is one of the beneficiaries of the new “superconcessions” regulations, and Vierge says the increased parameters of chassis adjustments will help the team get the most from its CBR1000RR-R.

While the machine is very quick in a straight line, there are areas where the Honda struggles. A lack of rear grip at the end of races costs the HRC riders acceleration out of corners, Vierge says, and the last phase of braking into the corners needs improvement, because what the Honda riders are losing in acceleration they are trying to make up on the brakes.

Vierge says the increased ability to adjust swingarm pivot and steering geometry should help the team make better use of the series’ spec Pirelli tires.


Xavi Vierge. Photo courtesy Honda.
Xavi Vierge. Photo courtesy Honda.


“For sure, superconcessions will help us. It will help us have an easier life,” Vierge says.

Without that assistance, Lecuona says, the Honda requires its riders to try to force the machine to do things it doesn’t want to do, with predictable results.

“You need to fight with the bike to go fast. Many crashes,” Lecuona says. “We have many new parts. I don’t know what we need to try in the test, but we are 100 percent ready to fight.”


Iker Lecuona. Photo courtesy Honda.
Iker Lecuona. Photo courtesy Honda.


Vierge says the Honda’s struggles begin when the rear tire starts to wear during races.

“We struggle a bit more than the rest to stop the bike in the last part of the corner, so we push more the tire, and then we never can pick up the bike to find the perfect drive. To go like the others, we need to use much more the tire,” Vierge says. “We lose on acceleration, we are trying to make up that time (in braking). At the beginning of the races, with the new tire, we are able to be there, let’s say. But…after the moment the tire drops we cannot continue pushing at the same level. The crashes arrive.”

Vierge’s comments echoed that of Honda’s Marc Marquez, who said after the first post-season test that he was struggling to get the RC213V stopped during the last phase of braking.

Both Honda WorldSBK riders said the idea of a minimum combined rider/machine weight had positives and negatives, and Vierge added that such a regulation would be difficult to implement in a way that impacts all riders and teams equally.

“About the minimum weight, it is difficult to say. In our box, Iker (Lecuona) is much more heavy than me. For sure he has some benefits, but also some positives for myself. Of course, my bike is much faster on the straight, but then I am not able to use the rear grip like he (can). I was always struggling with the grip,” Vierge says.

“It’s difficult. If they put the (combined) minimum weight, I will not have the advantage of the straight, let’s say, but I will continue having the disadvantage of not using the rear grip, so…it’s not easy to be fair to everyone. In…areas like MotoGP and Superbike, it is really difficult to find the correct compromise. If you move something, you will penalize someone or another one. If you are really small, you are not able to change nothing to win race. If you are big, it will be much more tough than another person, but you can make different training. It’s not easy. I can understand both parts.”

While the team has the “superconcessions” to work with for 2023, testing is limited and time is short, so HRC’s challenge is to find the ideal settings among a bigger range of possibilities in the time that it has before the season starts, Vierge says.

“Honda is Honda, and for sure we will be back fighting for wins,” Vierge says.

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