2008 BSB race winners Leon Haslam and Cal Crutchlow are aiming to bring down the curtain on their HM Plant Honda careers with podiums finishes in this weekend's WSBK season finale at Portimao, where they will be riding as wild-cards.
Haslam and Crutchlow finished second and third respectively in the final BSB championship standings and will now make their final appearance in black in orange during their second WSBK appearance of the season.
At Donington Park in September, both impressed during poor weather conditions. Haslam, who won five of the last nine BSB races, was taken out of a podium position in race one, but remounted to take eighth, before crashing out of the second race. Crutchlow meanwhile suffered a DNF in race one, but battled hard to finish a superb second in race two.
In preparation for this weekend's race, HM Plant Honda conducted a two-day test at the brand new Portimao circuit last week.
"The track layout itself is fantastic with flowing corners and undulations and the facility itself will be superb," said Haslam, who will ride for Stiggy Honda in the World Superbike Championship. "Grip was an issue during our test as it was a little slippery out there. Obviously we were going quicker and quicker during the day and I ended up being second quickest behind Troy Bayliss which was nice.
"We've fine-tuned a few things on the HM Plant Honda Fireblade since then, so I think we can have a good go at the regular World Superbike stars there this weekend. I want to simply go out there and enjoy myself and get a couple of podiums for HM Plant Honda and myself to end the year with them on a high," he added.
Crutchlow, who has signed to ride for Yamaha in the 2009 World Supersport Championship, has similar intentions - but is wary of the slippery track surface.
"During the test the track was improving all the while, but if you went off-line you would lose so much time it was untrue," revealed the double BSB race winner. "Hopefully with more bikes out there from tomorrow we will see the times come tumbling down as more rubber gets laid on it. It's nice to be out here to compete at the final World Superbike round. I'm hoping to repeat my podium result or better it from the Donington Park round earlier this year to sign off my year with HM Plant Honda with a good result."
"There's absolutely no pressure on either the team or the riders this weekend, which is nice," declared team manager Havier Beltran. "We've finished our championship and this is the last round of the World Superbike championship, which has already been decided.
"The riders have already been privileged to test out there already and the facility looks tremendous and second-to-none. The grip level hasn't been too good, but this is new asphalt and you get that when the oil is seeping out of the bitumen, but the times get quicker as more rubber is laid down. We've had the rear spinning on corner exit and also had problems on corner entry grip. Things will get better as time goes on.
"Either way, this will be a level-playing field for everyone, both for the regular world championship runners and us. It's the last time we will see Leon and Cal in HM Plant Honda colours, so let's hope they get some good results both for themselves and the team," he concluded.
Josh Brookes and Glen Richards will ride for HM Plant Honda in BSB next season.