Alvaro Bautista: Honda has ‘really big margin’ to recover in WorldSBK

Alvaro Bautista plays down Honda's 2020 WorldSBK opening round performance in Phillip Island, saying there are 'positives' but there is work to do

Alvaro Bautista - HRC Honda CBR1000RR-R

Alvaro Bautista has downplayed Honda’s solid start to the 2020 WorldSBK Championship season despite the team securing three top six finishes on its debut with the CBR1000RR-R.

The Spaniard endured an up and down weekend that saw him come into the weekend on the fringes of the top ten in terms of competitive times before qualifying well down the order in 15th position after crashing in Superpole.

A strong fight-back in race one lifted him to sixth place – just behind team-mate Leon Haslam in fifth – before another crash in the Superpole Race left him with work to do in Race 2. Nonetheless, Bautista got amongst the lead group en route to another sixth-place finish.

Despite this, the ex-MotoGP rider – a triple winner on his WorldSBK debut twelve months ago with Ducati - was disappointed with the results overall and admits there is work to do to close on the front-runners.

"It's a pity [Superpole Race crash] because I think I could have been in the top five in those conditions. The feeling with the bike was improved, we made some changes from [Saturday] and it made me more comfortable on the bike.

"I think it has been a positive weekend for us. We were not too far from the front riders. We have a really big margin to improve. We marked a base, now we have to work on the bike and try to improve for the next races."

“It was easier to be in the front group, but at the same time more difficult with the conditions, especially with our bike, which is for sure not perfect, we are struggling a little bit more when the conditions change. But at least it was positive to see the front group."

Positives with a tinge of disappointment for Honda

Compared solely to a year ago, there is a lot for Honda to be pleased about… but it will go away admitting it wasn’t a terribly polished weekend.

The good news is the Honda CBR1000RR-R is certainly competitive and has a good base to work from. Indeed, if anything it is just details that need resolving but it’s these details that are the hardest to achieve in racing.

It didn’t help that Bautista suffered two crashes over the course of the weekend and while his qualifying misstep was caused by a false neutral (which also led to Haslam’s fall in race two) given falls were the catalyst for his failure to win the 2019 WorldSBK title, it’s not a promising outlook.

To its credit, Honda is there or thereabouts, but just as we saw in the closing stages of the Phillip Island races, it looks like Kawasaki, Yamaha and Ducati have more in hand to push on.