Honda retains Iker Lecuona, Xavi Vierge for 2023 WorldSBK season

HRC Honda confirms ex-MotoGP rider Iker Lecuona and ex-Moto2 front runner Xavi Vierge will remain with its team for the 2023 WorldSBK Championship

Iker Lecuona, Xavi Vierge - Honda HRC WorldSBK

Team HRC Honda has confirmed Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge will continue as its rider line-up for the 2023 WorldSBK Championship season.

Forming an all-new pairing for the Spanish-based, Japanese-flagged outfit this season, Lecuona and Vierge made their WorldSBK debuts in 2022 with the factory-backed Honda outfit after making the transition from MotoGP and Moto2 respectively.

A change of direction for Honda, which returned to WorldSBK in a full factory capacity in 2020 with the experienced pairing of Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam, the HRC effort has enjoyed a step forward in competitiveness in 2023 with Lecuona especially, the Spaniard finishing all but one race so far inside the top ten.

Also achieving a podium finish at Assen, the ex-KTM MotoGP rider’s retention was always anticipated after playing a crucial role in Honda’s dominant Suzuka 8 Hours victory earlier this month.

Vierge’s presence was more questionable though with talk that Honda was considering hiring top privateer Axel Bassani in his place. However, in a season hampered by injury woes, Vierge has been given a stay of execution in the Leon Camier-helmed team.

“Since the beginning of the season, I think that we have worked together very well,” he said. 

“We are strong and we have shown throughout some races this year that we have the speed; of course, we haven’t achieved the results that we wanted but we are fighting for that and I think it’s the best option to continue together. 

“The results will arrive, so I’m super happy to continue! We will arrive at some circuits in the second half of this year that I know, such as Barcelona-Catalunya and Portimao – where Alvaro Bautista got good results last year – so hopefully we will be closer to those positions and we will try to fight for these positions and more.”

Honda’s announcement means Ducati is the only remaining factory squad yet to confirm its full line-up for 2023 with Michael Ruben Rinaldi at risk of being replaced by either Bassani or Danilo Petrucci.

It also means at least four of the five manufacturers will field unchanged rider line-ups next year with Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes at Kawasaki KRT, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli at Pata Yamaha, Scott Redding and Michael van der Mark at BMW Motorrad.

In other news, Pedercini Kawasaki has announced Spanish racer Oscar Gutierrez will make his WorldSBK debut with the team next time out at Magny-Cours as part of a two-event stint.

A double Spanish Supersport champion and now front runner in the domestic Superbike series, Gutierrez got his first taste of ZX-10RR WorldSBK machinery at this weekend's Catalunya test.

“I have adapted well to the Kawasaki, which is a new bike for me. They tyres are also new and I am enjoying the experience of being in World Superbike. I am looking forward to the final day of testing in Catalunya and to racing in France and also in my home race for TPR Team Pedercini.”