The Spanish rookie, in just his second WorldSBK round, claimed his first podium with third place in Race 2
The 2022 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s title race pendulum has started swinging after an immense Motul Dutch Round at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands. The historic Dutch venue, celebrating its 30th anniversary of being on the WorldSBK calendar, didn’t disappoint with historic achievements and huge drama throughout the weekend. One of the major headlines is that rookie Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) took a first podium of his World Superbike career in Race 2, returning Honda to the podium at Assen for the first time in six years and giving Spain a 150th podium place in WorldSBK.
It had been an eventful weekend for Lecuona, who started strongly in FP1, finishing second overall, whilst in FP2, he suffered a big highside at Turn 3. In FP3, he crashed again, this time with a front-end fall at Turn 9 before remounting in time for Tissot Superpole, where he clinched eighth. Race 1 saw him come up the order, bagging his first ever top five in WorldSBK, whilst in the Superpole Race, he was fifth again.
Starting fifth in Race 2, Lecuona was up to fourth at one point and ran with the leading group before the controversial clash between title rivals Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) resulted in the pair crashing, with Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) also being caught up in the drama. Lecuona threaded his way into the lead before being repassed by Bautista and then Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) with four to go.
Crossing the line third to the delight of the Team HRC crew, Lecuona was overjoyed, saying: “I’m very happy, I didn’t expect this podium for sure. All weekend, I felt very fast and very good with the bike. I have very good feedback. I had some ups and downs during the weekend. In the first race, I finished in P5. I feel comfortable with the bike, I feel fast. In the Superpole Race, again I finished in P5 but closer to the top guys. I tried to use a bit more tyre in the first laps to make some gap with the second group. When I saw the crash with Rea and Toprak, I knew it was my opportunity to overtake Alvaro and Loca. Alvaro went very fast; I couldn’t follow him. All the race, I have a small gap to Loca but in the end I don’t have tyre because I used them in the first laps. He overtook me. I’m very happy, very excited. Thanks to the team I had two big crashes and they repaired the bike very, very fast.”
Despite the podium in just his second WorldSBK round, Lecuona was keen to ensure feet remained firmly on the ground as the season progressed. He added: “I think the target is the same. I need to stay calm and also the team. Two riders crashed and then I fought for the podium. I think the target is to finish in the top five, top six. I think this the real target, the real level from the bike. We need to keep this way, stay calm and step-by-step we will see what happens.”
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