COMEBACK KIDS: Bassani and Lecuona star in Top 6 from outside Top 10 on grid

Saturday, 25 February 2023 07:18 GMT

After a Superpole woes, it was a Race 1 to remember as Axel Bassani and Iker Lecuona got their season off to a solid start despite early Saturday struggles

The 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is well and truly off and running with the season-opening encounter in the bag. A wet Race 1 at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit closed day two of action at the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round and it was an intense fight from the start. Whilst it was a sixth win in Australia for Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati), it was a story of fighting back on Saturday afternoon for Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) and Iker Lecuona (Team HRC).

After Superpole’s intensity left Lecuona in P11 and Bassani down in P14, it was looking like it could be a long afternoon for two of 2022’s podium finishers. However, with a big rain shower coming just moments before WorldSSP Race 1, it was a wet race when the World Superbike field got to the circuit and unlike in 2022, the track didn’t dry out. Storming up through the order on the first lap, Axel Bassani was already inside the top ten from his fifth row start, whilst Lecuona didn’t make big initial progress. Bassani was like a hot knife through butter and the 23-year-old Italian, from Feltre, was soon up into sixth place, although that would be his ceiling.

For Lecuona on the other hand, he picked his way through ahead of the likes of front-row starter Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) and his fellow rookie teammate Remy Gardner, as well as Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) and eventually Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team). Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) crashed out from fourth, promoting Bassani and Lecuona into the top six, as well as Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) into fourth.

Despite an epic comeback from P14, Bassani wasn’t entirely happy: “I started in P14 so I finished in P5 so it is really good. I took home a good result to start the season, so we need to continue like that. I tried to overtake all the guys! It was really difficult to see from behind all the others. I did some good opening laps and after that, I tried to manage the race and try to not make mistakes and take home the result. I’m happy for the result but not happy with the Superpole and the rest. I didn’t have a good feeling with the bike from the start of the race. I want to try and understand what happened and for the next races and I want to try and stay with the top four guys as I want that position and I am here for that. With the front it was OK, but with the rear and the entry and exit of the corners, I didn’t have a good feeling and I couldn’t push.”

Iker Lecuona was slightly more upbeat but was missing a good feeling at the start of the race: “At the end, it’s not too bad, to finish in P6 in my first race in wet conditions, so I needed to learn a lot in the race. It was my first time in the wet with this bike and the first time doing many laps in the wet with these tyres, so almost everything was new. It was quite complicated, and this track isn’t the easiest. I can recover many places; at the beginning, I felt good, but the tyre pressure went too high in the opening six or seven laps, and I didn’t have the support from the rear. At the end, I kept the pace a bit and I could fight and recover the position with Redding. I am happy but also not!”

Whilst they made the top six, other riders such as Xavi Vierge (Team HRC) also shone as he came from P17 to P7 in a heroic comeback, although he did gain one position after Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) collided with him on the final lap, being demoted one place. Ninth went to Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and he came from P13, whilst Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) started his BMW tenure with a solid tenth place, coming from 16th.

THE GOLDEN ERA CONTINUES: enjoy Round 1 LIVE and AD-FREE with the WorldSBK VideoPass!