Honda’s first year back in WorldSBK – how does it look as the season ends?

Monday, 19 October 2020 08:38 GMT

The Japanese manufacturing giant weren’t just here to make up the numbers and in 2021, they target wins…

As the 2020 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship comes to a rest, it’s time to take a look at how the all-new Honda CBR1000RR-R SP Fireblade got on in its first season of WorldSBK action. Much anticipated and launched with high interest and a lot of fanfare, HRC returned to WorldSBK with a brand-new motorcycle in 2020 and straight away – with a high top speed and two of the best development riders in the business in Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam – heads were turning.

Both Bautista and Haslam finished on 113 points for their first campaign, a testament to the team’s consistency in 2020; Spaniard Bautista is classified higher than Haslam in the standings by virtue of having a podium. Across the eight rounds, Bautista outscored Haslam in five of them but the plucky Brit’s tenacity and spirit showed him finish in the points in all but four races, whilst his teammate failed to score in nine. This meant that by the time the season was over, the scores were balanced out and going into 2021, there’s nothing to split them.

Highlights for Honda in 2020 include the sensational first round where, in its first race, the bike was able to achieve a double top six finish – Haslam fifth and Bautista right behind him in sixth. One of the big breakthrough rounds for Bautista was the fifth place achieved in Race 2 at Portimao, his first top five of the year. At the next round, he’d go one further with fourth in the Tissot Superpole Race, whilst he took the only podium of Honda’s season in Race 2 with third, having been in the battle for the lead in the early stages. Two front rows (one for each rider) and eight double top-ten finishes, Honda’s first season back was full of good moments.

Speaking after the final round of the season, Bautista said: “The season has been challenging for us, considering we were a new team having to develop a new bike during what has been a shortened Championship. We’ve had some good results but there have been teething problems, as you expect with a new project.”

Moving on to reviewing Estoril’s Sunday performance, he commented: “As for today’s performance, after yesterday’s crash, I wanted to complete the final races of the season without any setbacks. Track conditions were a little trickier today, offering me less rear grip, but I focused on interpreting the track and riding at the limit, without exceeding it of course. In the end, top five is not our target as we want to win, but we have to take the positives when considering the season as a whole. When all is said and done, we have collated a lot of data this year and are very motivated to work hard this winter in order to be more competitive next season.”

Teammate Leon Haslam was also pleased with his work at Estoril and with 2020 overall and can’t wait to get going for next season: “Today’s racing was a little more difficult than yesterday. The first half of Race 2 was not too bad but some vibration with the bike in the later stages made it hard for me to maintain my pace and hold on to seventh place.

“In the end, Alvaro and I round out the year with the same points, we’ve learned a lot throughout the season, and I feel we have a clear understanding in terms of the direction we’ll take with winter testing. So it’s been a challenging year, with everything that has happened, but we’re feeling very positive as we move forward. I personally cannot wait to start the winter tests.”

Although 2020 is done, 2021 awaits you in more ways than one: enjoy all the build-up to the new year with the WorldSBK VideoPass!