Honda set to retain Lecuona, Virgo for 23

Honda is set to continue with Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge for a second season in the Superbike World Championship in 2023, with the team ruling out freeing up space to accommodate MotoGP rider Takaaki Nakagami.

Lecuona and Virgo made strong impressions in their rookie WSBK seasons after leaving MotoGP and Moto2 respectively, replacing veteran duo Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam.

Lecuona already has a podium under his belt after finishing third at Assen, and sits sixth in the standings at the midpoint of the season, while Virgo is 10th with a best result of fourth at Misano.

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While Lecuona has reportedly already agreed a 2023 Honda deal, there had been speculation that the Virgo seat was not 100 per cent secure and that the Spaniard was considering a return to Moto2.

However, Honda WSBK team manager Leon Camier told last month that he would be “absolutely 100%” happy to retain Virgo, revealing the team will soon announce its 2023 driver line-up. .

He also stressed that providing refuge for Japanese rider Nakagami, who faces losing his LCR Honda MotoGP seat after this season to Moto2 favorite Ai Ogura, is no problem.

“No, at the moment, no,” Camier said when asked if Nakagami could be an option for 2023. “He’s not in our plans.”

Iker Lecuona, HRC Team, Xavi Virgin, HRC Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose/Motorsport Images

With top-10 finishes in every race except for a mechanical retirement at Most, Lecuona has edged team-mate Virgo by 48 points so far this season and finished ahead in 13 out of 18 races.

Additionally, Lecuona was part of the crew that took Honda’s first Suzuka 8 Hours win since 2014 earlier this month, with the Spaniard receiving plaudits for the pace he showed in his first outing on the famous Japanese circuit.

However, Camier stressed that it would be unfair to judge Virgo solely on his results so far in WSBK, pointing to the impact of a major accident at Misano which forced him to undergo surgery on his fractured right hand. , as well as the effects of a pre-season injury.

“I know that this year, from the outside, it looks a bit like Xavi has been overshadowed by Iker, but the reality is not like that,” said Camier, a runner-turned-team manager.

“He had two injuries, like broken wrists with six wrist fractures at Misano. And you look at the superpole race at Misano, he performed incredibly well.

“Before that, at the beginning of the year, he broke two ribs, so [at] Aragon, he rode amazing and he had two broken ribs.

“And also, in Assen the week after, the change of direction was really difficult for him. We can see from the data that he couldn’t change direction properly because of his ribs.

“When he has a normal weekend where everything is going well, his speed is really, really good too.”

For his part, Virgo has made it clear he would like to continue racing with the Japanese marque in the production class for another season, dismissing talk of a return to the Grand Prix paddock.

“I’m really happy with Honda, with the whole team,” said the 25-year-old. “I also think they are happy with me.

Xavi Virgin, HRC team

Photo by: Gold and Goose/Motorsport Images

“I think after the summer break we will have more news. We haven’t talked much about it, but we are happy with each other.

“I am very happy [where I am], I feel like I’m in a really competitive team, it’s a good thing for every rider to be in the factory. We are making great progress.

“Of course, we are not fighting for the positions we want and deserve, but Honda is working very hard, me too, to understand how to get the most out of it. If we continue like this, we will arrive.

Young Italian Axel Bassani was another name linked to Virgo racing after another impressive start to the season on his privateer Motocorsa Racing Ducati.

However, when asked about the possibility of a Honda transfer to Most, Bassani only commented: “I’m focused on the track and the off-track things which I leave to my manager.”

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