Honda has already ‘proved race-winning potential’ – Alvaro Bautista

Alvaro Bautista says Honda's performance in the WorldSBK opener at Phillip Island showed the CBR1000RR-R will be a race winning bike

Alvaro Bautista - HRC Honda CBR1000RR-R

Alvaro Bautista says the enforced hiatus of all motorcycle racing has come at a frustrating time for Honda as it was making ‘small steps every day’ with its brand-new WorldSBK entry.

Honda relaunched its WorldSBK campaign ahead of the 2020 season by enlisting its multiple MotoGP championship winning Team HRC outfit to lead its renewed effort with the new seventh generation CBR1000RR-R Fireblade model.

Signing Alvaro Bautista from Ducati and Leon Haslam from Kawasaki, the machine proved competitive on its first weekend of action with Haslam’s fifth place finish in the opening race at Phillip Island proving manufacturer’s best WorldSBK result for almost two years.

By contrast, Bautista has endured a more troubled time adapting to the inline four machine with a crash in qualifying leaving him with work to do in all three races. However, a pair of top six finishes suggest Honda is on the right track with development.

It’s a view shared by Bautista, who feels the team have made a huge step already and aren’t far from the top, even if it will take hard work to bridge a small but crucial gap to the likes of Kawasaki, Ducati and Yamaha to prove what he feels is race-winning potential.

“It’s a new bike, a new team, everything was put together in a short space of time, we’re still lacking experience… There’s a long way to go. But as you saw, the bike, the structure and HRC have the potential to fight for good results. It’s just a matter of time.

“We need that time to work and put everything in place. When we do and can clear everything up, we’ll be at the front. We already were in Australia from the first race; we proved our race-winning potential.

With this in mind, Bautista admits pause brought on by the coronavirus comes at an inopportune time as the team seeks consistent track time to make up the last few tenths.

“Now, it’s obviously all come to a standstill… We were making small steps every day. We’re ready to take the next step in the evolution of this bike. We’ll have to wait, but I do think we will have improved for the next races.”