Honda leaves it late for official 2020 WorldSBK launch

Honda won't officially launch its 2020 WorldSBK effort with the new CBR1000RR-R Fireblade until mere days before the season kicks off

Honda CBR1000RR-R SP

Honda has announced it will give its new 2020 WorldSBK effort an official launch on February 21, just days before its new Honda CBR1000RR-R entry makes its race debut in Australia.

The return of the Japanese manufacturer in a high-profile factory capacity is one of the most eagerly anticipated factors of the 2020 WorldSBK season, the bid heralding the introduction of its new Fireblade Superbike, plus an all-new rider line-up of Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam.

Having diverted some factory backed support to satellite teams over the years, most notably Ten Kate Racing, this renewed effort sees Honda effectively bring its WorldSBK challenge in-house at HRC, which runs its multiple title-winning MotoGP effort in Barcelona.

Indeed, in a sure sign that Japanese bosses are taking much more interest in the series than before, Tokyo is the scene for the official 2020 WorldSBK launch on February 21, immediately before the CBR1000RR-R appears at Phillip Island for official pre-season testing and the opening round in Australia.

All quiet on the Honda front ahead of 2020 launch

With the road bike only getting its world premiere at November’s EICMA show, Honda has been facing a race against time to get the equivalent WorldSBK-spec machine up to speed before its much-anticipated debut.

Representing a significant change of philosophy from Honda, the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade has been developed with motorsport very much in mind. As such, power has jumped to around 210-217HP to put it into closer range with the Ducati Panigale V4 R in the hope of rivalling it in terms of top speed.

To date there has been very little to say about the new Fireblade. Honda swerved the opportunity to go against its rivals during post-season testing in Spain, instead choosing to conduct trials at Aragon so private there was a lockdown on any journalists and photographers from attending.

It is understood Honda has been focusing hard on adapting the WorldSBK-spec machine to Pirelli tyres having conducted much of the development on Bridgestone rubber. It is anticipated Honda will instead use one of the January tests in Spain to measure up to its rivals directly, but it could also wait until Phillip Island – where Bautista was a triple winner with Ducati a year ago – to do so instead.

Honda is expected to have four bikes on the 2020 WorldSBK grid with the MIE Racing team entering a pair of Fireblades as well. Takumi Takahashi is slated to ride one of them, with the second potentially going the way of Sandro Cortese or Yuki Takahashi.