Locatelli and Lecuona: the dark horses to watch on ‘The Island’?

Friday, 24 February 2023 06:09 GMT

Both Andrea Locatelli and Iker Lecuona were fast throughout Friday’s action in Australia and will have their eyes set on the podium…

The Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round provided plenty of shocks and surprises in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship on the opening day of action. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) took second spot and Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) was third on a dramatic day of action as they look to kickstart their 2023 season in style Down Under. Both were quick out of the blocks on Friday with Lecuona’s best time of the day coming on his first timed lap, while Locatelli’s best time also came in Free Practice 1.

Locatelli had shown strong pace throughout the Official Test on the Monday and Tuesday proceeding the Australian Round and that continued throughout Friday in Australia as he set the second fastest lap time. His best time was a 1’31.069s, set in Free Practice 1, and was good enough to finish in second place as the lead Yamaha rider and behind only reigning Champion Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) with the pair separated by 0.446s in the combined classification.

Locatelli said: “It was a really good afternoon also because we were faster on the old tyre. In the end, I had a small crash. I think it was normal after a lot of laps on the track. Sometimes this happens. The feeling is really good on the bike. I think we can push more, and, for the race, we have a really good rhythm. I am really confident with the bike and I can’t wait to be on the track and start the first race.”

During Free Practice 1, Andrea Dosoli, Road Racing Manager at Yamaha Motor Europe, believed Locatelli had taken a step in term of maturity and is now reaping rewards for that step. Responding to these comments, Locatelli said: “Andrea also spoke to me after testing and said he was impressed about our job. I think it’s normal. I have a little bit more of a clear idea when I ride this bike, I have a little bit more experience, I can understand the bike, I can make some choices when we try some parts on the bike. Now it’s clearer for me. We have also made a step. I’m really happy about this.”

It was also a strong day for Lecuona on his CBR1000RR-R as he took third spot in the combined classification after setting a 1’31.129s. He was unable to improve his lap time in Free Practice 2 but his time was good enough for a top-three finish in the combined classification. Lecuona’s best lap of the day was set on his first flying lap in FP1 as he got off to a superb start to his first Australian Round, but he did have a crash in the closing stages of FP1.

Lecuona was looking strong towards the end of the session in FP1 but, as he looked to improve his time, had a few moments that he had to save. However, he crashed at Turn 10 with around eight minutes left in FP1 which disrupted his running although did not cost him too much time given it was towards the end of the session.

Reflecting on his day, Lecuona said: “It was better than we expected! After the test, we struggled a lot. This morning, on the first laps, I felt good with the new tyres straight away. I understood what we needed to change on the bike to make a step. We were alone and the good thing is that I can produce this lap time when riding alone. It’s a good step for us. In the morning, I had a small crash at Turn 10 because we locked the front a lot and I missed some support. In Free Practice 2, I did a long run, a race simulation, and felt good and consistent. Alvaro surprised me because he and the Ducati have another step. His pace was unbelievable. I think we are not far away to fight at the front.”

Will Locatelli or Lecuona be able to fight for a podium? Find out using the WorldSBK VideoPass!