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Is Leon Haslam joining Alvaro Bautista at Honda for 2020 WorldSBK?

Leon Haslam is the new favourite to join Alvaro Bautista in the new HRC-backed Honda team for the 2020 WorldSBK Championship

The final available factory seat on the 2020 WorldSBK Championship grid is set to go the way of Leon Haslam after he reportedly penned a deal that will see him join Alvaro Bautista at the new HRC Honda team for next season.

Multiple sources are reporting Haslam will curtail his relationship with Kawasaki in favour of a move to the new Honda Racing Corporation-backed factory effort that will enter WorldSBK in 2020 with its new generation Fireblade.

Should the reports prove correct – and if they are, it’s likely to come in the next few days as Honda gears up to reveal the new Fireblade at EICMA - he will join the already-confirmed Bautista in the team.

It will mark a return to Honda for Haslam, who raced with the then-Ten Kate Racing led effort in 2013 and 2014, finishing seventh overall in the latter season.

Leon Haslam to bring experience to new HRC team?

Though it hasn’t been the most sparkling of WorldSBK comebacks for Haslam this season, he remains one of the steadiest hands on the grid armed with a significant amount of experience, a trait a team like HRC Honda really needs.

Indeed, though HRC certainly knows its way around a motorcycle, it is still very fresh in WorldSBK terms having entrusted much of its representation to Ten Kate Racing until the end of 2018.

The decision to shift allegiance to Althea Moriwaki Racing for 2019 was an attempt to pay closer attention to the inner functions of a WorldSBK team while it developed it’s the machine behind closed doors. 

Though said machine doesn’t officially exist, it has now been spotted this week pumping in the laps at Motegi – view the images and video here.

HRC places a lot of focus on development and while Haslam will likely come in as a #2 to star signing Bautista, together with a sizeable testing team already in place, his experiences on the title-winning Kawasaki ZX-10RR could prove instrumental in speeding up the competitive process.

This is a timely move for Haslam, who faced a return to BSB – which he dominated in 2018 – or a switch to the privateer Puccetti Kawasaki set up after being ousted from his Kawasaki Racing Team spot by Alex Lowes.

Significantly, it keeps him in with the chance to ride the Suzuka 8 Hours – which he won this year – and depending on the strength of the bike, could give him a great chance to feature at the front of the field in 2020.

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