Honda swerves rivals in favour of private 2020 WorldSBK testing

Honda decides against joining its rivals for 2020 WorldSBK testing in Jerez in favour of a closed doors test at Motorland Aragon instead

Honda CBR1000RR-R SP

The final WorldSBK test of 2019 is currently underway in Jerez but with only four of the five manufacturers in attendance after Honda decided to continue testing behind closed doors.

The new HRC-backed Honda Racing team, which will compete with the brand-new Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade in the 2020 WorldSBK Championship, declined the invitation to travel to the Spanish venue in favour of a private outing in Motorland Aragon.

Newly signed riders Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam will be on hand to bring the Honda up to speed, but we’ll have to wait until January at the earliest now to see how the CBR1000RR-R fares relative to its rivals. The opening round of the 2020 WorldSBK season takes place at Phillip Island on 29 February – 1 March, with two days of pre-season testing taking place a week earlier.

Despite Honda’s absence, the final WorldSBK test of 2019 still offers up some interesting permutations with Scott Redding continuing his adaptation to the international series on the Ducati, while Alex Lowes will use the test get more comfortable on the Kawasaki.

Yamaha’s new R1 will be getting its full debut in Jerez too with Michael van der Mark and Toprak Razgatlioglu, while BMW – with Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty - joins the party this time having skipped the previous test at Aragon.

Pedercini Kawasaki, Puccetti Kawasaki, Barni Ducati, GRT Yamaha and Ten Kate Yamaha will also be present meaning at least 15 of the so-far-confirmed 20 WorldSBK entries will be on track.

Does Honda have something to hide?

Honda isn’t forthcoming at the best of times, but while we finally know more about the bike it will be racing in the 2020 WorldSBK Championship, we otherwise have very little to go on in terms of competitiveness.

It is perfectly well within its rights to stay out of the limelight at this precious stage of a bike’s development but it does run the risk of not being able to compare itself to its rivals in the same conditions by going off-piste with its testing programme. Alternatively, it may also want to disguise its strengths…

However, the talk emanating from test rider Stefan Bradl, which has completed a lot of the development work, suggests Honda is coming from a long way back with this machine.

This is partly because HRC has only just turned its full attention to the programme, but it’s also because the CBR1000RR-R was built for the Bridgestone tyres it races on in the All-Japan Superbike series and the challenge is now to get them working on the more particular Pirelli tyres.

It’s been a long time since Honda was consistently competitive in WorldSBK and the stakes are very high for this latest project, as demonstrated by HRC’s involvement and the way Honda has developed a motorbike with a significant power hike (between 210-214HP in standard trim) to go toe-to-toe with Kawasaki and Ducati.

With this in mind, failure – perceived or genuine – isn’t really an option for Honda at this level and it will be doing all it can to ensure it maximises that package even if it might be a slightly longer process than it had anticipated.