Leon Haslam, Alvaro Bautista form unchanged Honda line-up for 2021 WorldSBK

No change at Honda for the 2021 WorldSBK Championship as Leon Haslam is retained alongside Alvaro Bautista in an unchanged rider line-up

Alvaro Bautista - HRC Honda CBR1000RR-R

Honda has confirmed Leon Haslam will once again compete alongside Alvaro Bautista for the 2021 WorldSBK Championship in an unchanged rider line-up for the factory HRC squad.

The veteran Englishman joined Honda on a one-year ahead of the 2020 WorldSBK season, which also saw the return of HRC as manufacturer’s in-house factory entry together with the new generation Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade.

Though progress on the new machine has been modest in a season hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the new machine has shown flashes of performance, most notably at Aragon when Bautista scored the firm’s first WorldSBK podium since 2016.

While Bautista was always expected to remain on board having been enticed from Ducati over the winter in high-profile swoop, Haslam’s position was less clear.

Nonetheless, having largely matched the ex-MotoGP rider this year (he is eight points shy of him in the standings with one event remaining) Haslam earns a stay of execution to complete the ten-strong factory-backed entries for 2021.

“To say I’m pleased about renewing my contract with Team HRC would be an understatement,” he said. “This year has been difficult, with COVID-19 and limited test sessions, but I knew right from the start that this project has great potential, so to have a second year in which to continue developing the Fireblade and working with the team is very important to me. 

“I’m really confident that we can be fighting for the top steps of the podium in WorldSBK and that’s my ultimate goal; to work towards this with Honda and Team HRC is fantastic. I’m excited and can’t wait for the 2021 season to get underway.”

Haslam’s renewal might be seen as a blow to Chaz Davies, fresh from the news he won’t be on the Ducati next season after being replaced by Michael Ruben Rinaldi. It means if Davies wants to remain on the WorldSBK grid he will need to source a satellite ride.

As it stands, the ten riders with the five factory teams next season will be; Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes at Kawasaki, Scott Redding and Michael Ruben Rinaldi at Ducati, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli at Yamaha and Michael van der Mark and Tom Sykes at BMW.