Are Honda in contention in Portimao?

Friday, 1 October 2021 15:32 GMT

Friday in Portugal could not have gone much better for Honda with Leon Haslam fourth and Alvaro Bautista in fifth

As the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship paddock headed to the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve for the Motul Portuguese Round, there would have been optimism in the air for Team HRC following on from Alvaro Bautista’s rich vein of form including two podiums in the last two rounds, while Leon Haslam has been able to show strong pace in recent rounds as well.

That optimism translated into a strong showing on Friday in Portimao as Leon Haslam claimed fourth overall after Friday’s two practice sessions despite a crash in FP1 which cost him valuable track time in that session, although he was back out on track for the full duration of the second 45-minute session, where he posted a lap time of 1’41.716s for third, three tenths away from the pacesetting Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK).

Discussing Honda’s chances in Portimao, where riders will not be able to use the SCX tyre in Race 1 or Race 2, Haslam said: “I didn’t go out there and throw any tyres at it, we just stayed on the hard tyre, so I was really surprised we ended up third in that session. For sure, we have areas to improve on but very surprised that we ended up in that position in the end. I think, for me, I can definitely make the harder tyres work better. I don’t seem to get some of the advantage others get with the SCX tyre so, honestly, I think it’s going to make my situation more consistent and we’re not going to give away grip as we do at other rounds.”

Haslam’s teammate Bautista was ninth overall on Friday but had been running at the front in the early stages of Free Practice 2 as he posted a 1’42.115s to finish inside the top ten after the two 45-minute practice sessions, while the Spaniard has had plenty of success at Portimao throughout his career including a win in Race 2 in 2019 when riding for Ducati.

Looking back on Friday’s action, Bautista said: “Today was a bit of a challenging day for us because, as always, we struggle with the rear hard tyre specification, so we're trying to optimise the set-up in order to get the best we can from our package in these circumstances. This morning we tried to improve tyre shoulder grip, working a lot with the electronics and the power delivery and we did in fact make some progress. In the afternoon, when the asphalt was a little more slippery due to the higher temperatures, it was more difficult, but we were still among those who improved on their time, even if it was by just a fraction. We used the new front tyre that Pirelli introduced at Jerez and I felt good, especially in braking. Towards the end we fitted a fresh rear, but I couldn't complete a single fast lap because it was just spinning too much. Anyway, we are not far off in terms of lap times, so we hope to find a little more tomorrow.”

Watch all the action from WorldSBK in Portimao starting with FP3 at 09:00 Local Time (GMT+1) using the WorldSBK VideoPass!