Leon Haslam: Honda already within one or two tenths of the top

Leon Haslam says the new Honda CBR1000RR-R is able to lap within two tenths of its rivals even before the team fine-tunes the package

Leon Haslam, Scott Redding

Leon Haslam says his new Honda CBR1000RR-R is already capable of lapping on a par with its rivals even before it’s been ‘fine-tuned’ following a positive conclusion to the first round of WorldSBK testing in Portimao.

The Briton ended the two-day test in Portugal – held in largely dry conditions – with the sixth quickest lap time, 0.8secs slower than Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu.

However, Haslam insists the margin to the front on the timesheets is representative of the fact HRC haven’t quite dialled into the softer qualifying-spec rubber. Instead, the five-time race winner reveals the margin between himself and the leaders is only 0.1/0.2secs a lap slower during longer stints.

Moreover, Haslam says the Honda is achieving strong lap times without the team working on the details that he hopes will make the Fireblade even quicker.

“We made some good steps today,” he said. “Race tyre times we were within one or two tenths, we didn’t make the step the others did with the soft qualifying tyres, but we got through a lot of test items and the lap time wasn’t too bad.

“Honestly, I’m super excited. We have so much to look forward to, it’s not just fine-tuning the bike, we have not got to that stage with the bike yet – a normal bit of clicks here and there.

“We are just trying fundamental parts, fundamental test items, that’s what has brought us this close already. When we fine-tune it, I’m really looking forward to that stage.”

Haslam performance raises Honda hopes in Portimao

When HRC rolled out the Honda CBR1000RR-R for the first time in Jerez last week, there were a number of rivals crowded outside the pit box to get a first glimpse at the much-anticipated new entry – among them, Jonathan Rea.

A new bike, new team and new riders, it was hard to predict where the bike would feature on the timesheets. Indeed, Honda can take a lot of heart from the CBR1000RR-R’s maiden showing, proving quick enough over a single lap at this stage in the development process, even if it is worth pointing out this is where the team tested behind closed doors in 2019.

Even so, lapping within two tenths of the best over a simulated race distance means rivals should indeed be very worried about Honda come the opening round when, as Haslam puts it, they get to fine-tune the package and potentially unlock another chunk of time from it.