Rub?n Xaus has revealed that he is targeting 'big, big highs' and consistent podium finishes with new employer Castrol Honda in the 2011 World Superbike Championship - as he brushed aside suggestions that he might struggle on the CBR1000RR Fireblade in the same manner as his predecessor Max Neukirchner did last year.

Jonathan Rea was the only Honda rider to win a race in 2010 - only one to even ascend the rostrum, indeed - and with fourth spot in the final WSBK title standings, the Ulsterman also wound up some 14 positions higher than Neukirchner, the next-best placed competitor aboard a CBR1000RR.

Whilst the German's niggling injuries palpably failed to aid his cause, Rea has admitted that the bike was so frustratingly inconsistent and unpredictable as to force him to consider his own future at the Ten Kate-run operation at times - but not only is Xaus adamant that his reputation will not suffer in the same way as Neukirchner's did, the Spaniard is convinced that so similar are their riding styles, his arrival will give his new team-mate a boost, too.

"It's clear to me that the riding styles of Jonny and Max were completely different, and they were also using different materials and different pieces on the bike, which makes the behaviour of the bike completely different as well," the former MotoGP star told "It's difficult to exchange information when you're on completely different bikes, and I think that was the most difficult thing, as well as the fact that Max wasn't perfectly fit.

"That makes the situation tough, and considering that the competition is really strong and there are 20 riders, if you have a problem and are half-a-second behind your team-mate, you'll be at the back of the grid. That's why when Max had some problems, Jonny felt lonely, fighting against many team-mates at the front.

"In the end, a winning package is what makes a rider become better-and-better; if you look at the results from last year, you could see [Max] Biaggi winning but Leon [Camier] always fifth or sixth or fourth or third - top ten, certainly. That showed that the bike was there and the package was there. Also at Yamaha and Ducati you could see one rider next to the other one, and at BMW as well with myself and Troy Corser together or always really close. That helps the competitiveness of the team itself to improve.

"What happened at Honda last year made it more difficult for Jonny to be strong in every race, but he and I have similar riding styles, so I'm looking forward to really getting involved in the project and working with him a lot because I prefer to fight with him in every race, and far away from the group!"

Xaus is also quick to correct rumours that he was not confident on the BMW S1000RR - despite finding himself routinely outperformed by double WSBK Champion Corser over the past two campaigns - and has offered his initial thoughts about his new toy.

"I didn't say I wasn't comfortable on the BMW," he asserts. "I said that at some points and with the experience we had, it was difficult to be at the top when you have only two hours of racing per day over three days and changeable conditions. We needed more track time.

"The BMW is a really powerful bike, but it's also really peaky and really aggressive - and power without control is sometimes difficult to manage. As I've always said, when everything is perfect - on a flat track with no bumps and really long corners - the BMW is awesome and sticks extremely well to the racetrack, but when you need to fight and change lines and go on bumpy tracks, the bike is difficult to ride. With the Honda, everywhere, the power is there, and I have a good impression so far - it's awesome to ride, and I'm really enjoying it.

"I'm sure that when you have two years' experience, you can fight at a much higher level in the third year so I'm sure BMW are going to be up there fighting. Leon [Haslam] is young and he's motivated; the team has a big budget so he has a big salary, and that increases his motivation, too. Hopefully we will be in front of everybody, though - I don't want to think only about BMW. My personal goal is to be ahead of everybody."

Indeed, with Castrol Honda, Xaus knows he has a golden opportunity to revive his flagging WSBK career and flick two fingers up at his detractors who say that his day has now passed. Rea will undoubtedly be a tough nut to crack, but provided pre-season predictions are accurate and the team translates its promise into on-track success, then he is sure as hell going to give it a damn good go - and then the future, he assures, can take care of itself.

"Right now, I'm not looking at how long my career with Honda will be, or with anybody else," he stressed. "I've just turned 32, I feel in really good shape and comparing myself to Max Biaggi or people like that, I still have eight years in my career - but I don't think I will go that long. I've never fit into a perfect team or a perfect situation or a perfect package before, but this is a good package to set big goals with - and being on the podium is easily my goal. I'm looking for big, big highs."



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