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Lecuona: First WSBK podium "important" after KTM MotoGP woes

New Honda recruit Iker Lecuona says his maiden World Superbike podium at Assen is “very important” for his morale following a bruising two-year stint in MotoGP.

Iker Lecuona, Team HRC

Lecuona was dropped from the KTM fold at the end of 2021 after failing to finish higher than sixth during his two seasons in the premier class with the Austrian manufacturer's satellite Tech 3 team.

This prompted a switch to the production-based WSBK category in 2022, with Honda signing him to lead an all-rookie line-up alongside Moto2 graduate Xavi Vierge.

Lecuona was immediately on pace in his debut weekend in the championship at Aragon earlier this month, finishing all three races inside the top 10 and beating several factory rivals with ostensibly superior bikes.

When Jonathan Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu crashed in the second round of the season at Assen last Sunday, the Spaniard made the most of the opportunity to seize third place - having even led the race briefly in the immediate aftermath of the crash.

The result made Lecuona only the second rider after Alvaro Bautista to score a podium for Honda since the Japanese manufacturer returned to the WSBK as a full factory entrant in 2019.

Asked how significant the podium finish was for him, Lecuona said: “It's very important. I come from two years in MotoGP. I took a lot of experience but I struggled a lot and I couldn't enjoy myself on the bike. I always struggled. Sometimes, yes, I could enjoy but normally [not].

"Lot of the media and also KTM didn't help or believe in me. And it was at this moment I arrived here in the Honda team. 

“I feel the team believes in me, the factory believes in me. They give me everything and try to stay calm with me because I'm a rider, I like to push always.

“They tried to calm me [down when I crashed]. I think this is important for me.

"During the weekend I had two crashes but I have all the Japanese crew, all the team [remaining] calm because I did a very good work [with my laptimes]."

He added: ”Everybody tells me on social media that you're happy, on Instagram you look happy. And I say, 'yeah I'm happy'.”

Iker Lecuona, Team HRC

Iker Lecuona, Team HRC

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Lecuona however refused to get carried away with his results at Assen, conceding that he can’t realistically battle for podium finishes every race weekend.

“I know if everybody stayed on track, my position is P5,” the Spaniard admitted. “But if one rider crashes I can take some profit, no?

“On Friday night I talked with my manager. My expectation was to fight for the podium or fight for P4. But after qualifying I was fully pissed off because I made some mistakes and the gap to Toprak was 1.6s. 

“This was more than one second so I was pissed off. But my manager said, ‘your objective here is to learn, improve the bike and fight next year’.

“So we will do it step-by-step. What I try to do is not easy but my objective is the same - finish in the top seven, top six.

“If in one race I feel better and I finish on the podium, it's not bad. But it's true I need to stay calm because we need to develop the bike more. 

“But for sure for the factory, for the team, for me, for everybody, this podium gives us more energy.”

Lecuona sits fifth in the championship after the opening two rounds of the season, ahead of works Ducati rider Michael Ruben Rinaldi and just behind the second factory Yamaha of Andrea Locatelli.

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