Leon Haslam is buoyed by confidence following the Portimao World Superbike test and feels in race trim the new Honda is already “within one or two tenths” of the front-runners despite being in its early stage of development.

The 2018 British Superbike champion is spearheading the new HRC World Superbike project alongside team-mate Alvaro Bautista and on the final day of the Portimao test Haslam’s best lap of 1m 41.655s put him within one second of pace-setter Toprak Razgatlioglu on the Pata Yamaha.

But it was on the long runs where Haslam felt especially pleased by Honda’s initial progress having uncovered encouraging pace after working on “fundamental parts” before aiming to fine-tune the new CBR1000RR-R.

“Race tyre times we were within one or two tenths, we didn’t make the step the others did with the soft qualifying tyres, but we got through a lot of test items and the lap time wasn’t too bad,” Haslam said. “Honestly, I’m super excited, Phillip Island is one of my favourite circuits and I can’t wait to get there.

“We have so much to look forward to, it’s not just fine-tuning the bike, we have not got to that stage with the bike yet – a normal bit of clicks here and there, we’ve not even touched the bike in that respect yet.

“We are just trying fundamental parts, fundamental test items, that’s what has brought us this close already. When we fine-tune it, I’m really looking forward to that stage.”

Haslam and the rest of the World Superbike paddock have now completed European-based pre-season testing and next month head to Australia for the final test at Phillip Island (February 24-25) before the circuit hosts the 2020 opening round (February 28-March 1).

While the five-time World Superbike race-winner excepts Phillip Island will still present a steep learning curve for HRC he’s already optimistic of targeting the podium.

“Obviously, that is what we are aiming for, the test is going to be important,” he said. “The work between there and now is going to be important, every day with this new project is really important but my favourite circuit, can’t wait to get there and hopefully we can get on that top step.”

12 months ago Bautista piloted the Aruba.it Racing Ducati V4 R Panigale to victory on its competitive debut in WorldSBK, which turned into 11 consecutive wins at the start of the 2019 season.



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