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2024 Team HRC officially launched during online event
Team HRC officially launches its 2024 Superbike World Championship campaign by unveiling the livery of the new CBR1000RR-R and outlining the squad’s objectives for the new season during an online presentation.
On Friday 9 February, Team HRC officially presented its 2024 WorldSBK project that will see factory riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge take to the track with the all-new CBR1000RR-R.
During the online launch broadcast on HRC official social pages, new Team HRC manager José Manuel Escamez outlined the objectives for the upcoming racing season. This was followed by a video unveiling of the new 2024 Fireblade that will be entrusted to Lecuona and Vierge. As they head into a third consecutive season with Team HRC, the two Spanish riders reiterated their goals for the upcoming championship, emphasising the need to exploit the new bike’s potential and obtain good grip and acceleration as well as consistency at different racetracks so as to build on last season’s performance.
The 2024 Honda Fireblade features an array of updated components, starting with new aerodynamics and electronics packages. The Japanese engineers have worked tirelessly in recent months to provide the factory Superbike team with a series of new parts that should bring benefits across many areas, not least acceleration, deceleration, and braking. During winter testing, the team and riders have had a first opportunity to work on the bike, as they seek a base setup that can allow them to harness the machine’s obvious potential.
The aesthetically impactful livery sees the CBR logo flaunt a brighter shade of blue, while a striking blue band adorns the belly pan. To reflect this change, the riders’ leathers incorporate a similar blue band running vertically from top to bottom.
Lecuona and Vierge will be back on track with the new-look CBR1000RR-R on 19-20 February, when they will take part in the very last pre-season test at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia before returning to the same track on 23-25 February for the opening round of the 2024 Superbike World Championship season.
Xavi Vierge 97
Looking at your Instagram, it seems that you’re always either cycling or motocross riding.
“I like the winter period, as I can spend more time at home and make plans ahead of the new season. I love MX and can ride more over winter than at any other time. I try to do a lot of motorcycle training and cycling too. I’m based in Barcelona and there are many tracks for MX and supermoto very close to my home, within 30 minutes, so I spend a lot of time doing that. It’s great fun.”
This is your third year in WorldSBK but also your third season with HRC. Talk us through how you’re feeling as you head into your third year.
“I’m really looking forward to this year. We always say that our goal is to win and HRC has made an enormous effort to bring us a great new bike. I too am working hard to prepare in order to start the season strong.”
The new Fireblade brings many changes. What is your focus in terms of pre-season testing and what do you want from the bike?
“We basically want to improve a little in every area. We can brake late but in the final part of the braking, we have difficulty stopping properly, so we’re working on that, and also on the drive. We’ve already seen we have more potential in that area with the new bike, and with the electronics too, so I’m excited to see what we can do if we are able to find a good base-setup.”
And there are changes to the aerodynamics. Does this make for less pitching during corner entry?
“Yes, that’s one of the benefits. We’ve seen that the aerodynamics get more important each year, and so it helps in this sense and also in terms of reducing wheelies.”
You reached the podium in Indonesia in 2023, a fantastic result. Does that kickstart your 2024 campaign?
“Yes, for sure. Let’s say that we didn’t always live up to our potential in 2023, as performance sometimes depended on the track, the conditions, and whether there was a good level of grip or not. Our potential was great at Indonesia, for example, but perhaps less so at some other tracks, so we want to work hard to achieve a better, more consistent level of performance at different circuits.”
What are you most looking forward to in 2024?
“We are a factory team, and our performance needs to reflect this. I think it’s important to focus on the present and work hard, test by test and race by race, so that we can be ready to fight for big things.”
Iker Lecuona 7
Tell us about your off-season?
“I’ve really enjoyed the off-season. I love the winter and love the cold, and am lucky enough to live in Andorra, which is the perfect place for skiing. So I do a lot of alpine skiing but then also some motocross and flat track. I love the winter season as I can relax and take time for myself.”
2024 is your third year with Team HRC in WorldSBK and brings a new Fireblade model. What is your focus during the pre-season heading into round one?
“I’m very happy to be a factory rider with the same team for a third year and it means I’m motivated to work hard during the pre-season. I had a small surgery on my hand in early December so that I would have time to recover and then have the right energy and attitude to get back on the bike and work hard in January. I know my goal, I know my aims, and I know where I want to improve, so I’m trying to focus on those areas with the aim of being able to fight at the front in Australia and beyond. Let’s see what happens…”
During testing, you’ve said that the 2024 model feels different to last year’s version. What is it exactly that feels different to you?
“The two bikes are definitely different. We immediately started with an improved version last December, with different aerodynamics and different electronics. Small details really, but these make for a big step when put together. I feel the bike is more stable with this aerodynamics package, and we can more easily understand the behaviour of the bike. We need to adjust our line slightly, but we can use more power and brake a little later. Essentially, the overall feel is different thanks to this combination of new elements. Having said that, we still have a lot of work to do in order to put it all together and find the best compromise to be able to be exploit the potential of the new parts.”
How is the relationship with your new crew chief?
“To be honest, changing crew chief is never really a problem for me. I think I’m a friendly, open person and so I’m always happy to work with new colleagues and have always had a good relationship with members of my crew. My initial impression is good, and Tom seems to be a very cool guy with a positive, cheerful outlook. So far, so good, and I look forward to developing our relationship throughout the season.”
Last year you scored eight top six finishes. What is the goal for 2024?
“The goal is to fight for the podium. We reached the podium in our first year but not last year, which was more challenging. So our first goal is to develop the bike to a level that allows us to fight at the front and fight for the podium. We want to achieve more top three finishes, and then take it from there.”
José Manuel Escámez
Tell us about the journey that has led you to become Team Manager of Team HRC in WorldSBK?
“I first worked as a mechanic in Barcelona before moving into the racing arena. Most of my racing career to date has been in the MotoGP championship, where I’ve had chance to work with some great riders and good teams, including several seasons with HRC already. Now, I’m very happy to be the Team Manager of Team HRC in World Superbike and am ready to apply all my experience to this new role. The company is the same, and the way of working is also similar, so it’s been a relatively smooth transition, although there are also many new things to familiarise myself with, of course.”
What are your expectations for the 2024 season, in terms of the riders, the team, and the new Fireblade?
“It’s too early to talk about specific results as we still have tests to conduct. A realistic goal for us would be to continue growing and developing the new Fireblade while improving our performance compared to last year. I believe we have plenty of room for improvement, and as long as we keep making consistent progress, this will be a realistic path to follow.”
What do you see as the main challenges ahead?
“The main challenge is to become competitive with the new bike as soon as possible. There are many updates across all areas of the machine, so we need to bring it all together and find a base setup that allows our riders to fully exploit the bike’s potential. The next challenge will be to consistently compete for top-five positions and secure some podium finishes. We are aware that this is a significant challenge, considering the high level of competition in the championship, but we are working tirelessly to achieve that goal.”
What is the philosophy you bring to the team?
“I will strive to keep the team united and working together towards the same goal. I have held various positions within a team throughout my career, both on the mechanical side and in coordination roles. This has given me the opportunity to understand people and their feelings, so I want to ensure that everyone is able to give their best for the team.”