Leon Haslam showed great qualifying pace on Honda’s return as a factory squad while Bautista charged his way through the field
The Yamaha Finance Australia Round meant the return of Honda as a factory effort in MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, with Leon Haslam (Team HRC) and 2019 runner-up Alvaro Bautista leading the attack. The pair had mixed fortunes in Superpole as Haslam qualified in the top five while Bautista started 15th.
Bautista responded from a qualifying crash to fight his way back through the field while Haslam stayed with the leading group until the latter stages. The 35-year-old Spaniard finished the race in sixth place, one place and half-a-second behind Haslam.
Speaking after the race, Haslam said: “A little frustrated. We struggled a little bit from Lap 1. Just a little bit the rear delivery also the rear grip. [I] tried to manage the tyres but in the end the last four laps we fell off a cliff with the rear tyre. I was surprised because it felt quite easy to run with the front guys but in the end the tyre for me was the main problem. Well done to the guys in front and hopefully we can solve this small issue tomorrow and battle until the end. We’ve got a clear direction to change the bike especially with the power delivery, but honestly the pace and the handling of the bike was very competitive. Not so many changes, but just to help with the tyre.”
Speaking after he fought his way into the top ten, Bautista said: “I had a crash in the Superpole. I cannot make a good lap time for the grid and I start from the back. Fortunately I did not have a big injury, just a big impact on my left arm. Now it is too big and I was struggling to put my leathers on before the race! I tried to survive in the race. In the end, I did not make a good start and I have to stay out of timing behind the other riders. When you don’t have the confidence on the bike to make that small step of risk to overtake another rider [it] is always difficult. I lost a lot of time then my pace was quite good, even faster than the front group and I can catch some gap compared to them. At the end, sixth place but the important thing is we collect a lot of data to develop the bike. Right now, we are a bit far from fighting for the victory or the podium, but Honda and me we are pushing at our maximum.”
Honda will us Saturday as a positive experience having shown promising one-lap and race pace at various points throughout the day. The aim now will be to use Saturday’s data to improve the bikes ahead of Sunday’s Tissot Superpole Race and Race 2 as they look to push for a first podium after their return as a factory outfit.
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