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Jerez WorldSBK test: 'No weak points' says Haslam of new Blade

After an astounding public debut for the all-new WorldSBK Honda and the hugely experienced Leon Haslam at Jerez in the wet of Wednesday, sixth place in the drying conditions of Thursday was still a strong showing.

And all eyes were still firmly fixed on the new inline four Honda, and the most iconic name in modern motorcycle racing – HRC.

The rejuvenated Haslam told bikesportnews yesterday evening: “It was nice to put some slicks on the bike and we had some items we wanted to try. The track never really got fully dry, we were missing, going around, a lot of wet patches, but we did what we needed to do.


“We got through a few of the items, and found a few really positive things right at the end of the day, but we did not get to put that into a lap time, what with the red flag and then the rain coming in. But so far so good and we will move on to Portimao hoping that we will get a few more dry days.”

After the Jerez tests Haslam gave his summation of where the project is now. “It is early days but I am feeling really confident. In the rain it came very easily and very fast. In the dry honestly we have a list of things as long as your arm to get through, so it is step-by-step.

To be on the same tenth of a second as Michael van der Mark, who won here last year and who has been on the bike for several years, shows that we are pretty close. A lot of it was about risk and reward this afternoon; who would push on the wet patches, and so on. At the minute we are just keeping it nice and calm, getting through the items we need to.”

Once the racing starts, after four more days of testing for the new HRC squad, Haslam knows a different approach will be needed. “For the race weekend it will be a different focus. It will be a normal race weekend, trying to be as fast as we can and trying to get a race set-up for the best possible result.

“I feel confident we can do that. Right now it is a different focus, about testing, developing the bike, the package, the team, everybody getting to know each other. But come Phillip Island that mindset changes and we go into race mode.”

Once racing does start, Haslam agrees with everyone that Rea – his 2019 KRT team-mate - is still the mark to aim at in 2020. “Obviously Jonathan is the man to beat, he has been for the last five years. That is the target for everybody. The Ducati was super-strong last year and the Yamaha, so I think this year there are several manufacturers challenging for those top spots and I am pretty confident Honda and myself are going to be one of them as well.”

The strong points of the Fireblade have shown in the good lap times so far but the weak points of the Honda for Haslam have not been evident. “Not really any weak points,” he stated. “The bike handles well, the power is really the good the electronics too. For me the weak point is that it is early days.

“We need laps and all the items on the bike are there to do what is needed we just need to put it together and come together as a team. Only time and laps will do that. I feel really happy how the electronics are working. Easy to ride. Obviously the power is there, that is the first ‘tick’ to manage the power with the electronics that we have.

The Honda chassis has always been very good. I remember from ‘13 and ‘14, the change of direction and obviously the basic handling of the bike has always been very strong. With what you can change nowadays on the bike - pretty much everything - we are still in that stage to understand how to make the best lap time not just for one but for 20 laps, save the tyre and all those things. We have not even got to that stage. We are basically doing the bigger points, after that we will put that into the final detail.”

Haslam explained risk in the nearly dry conditions of the final lap time ‘window’ at Jerez, a point that he has already touched on. “From my best lap to my next lap was a second of difference, and I did not do anything different except miss an extra wet patch! From my point of view the lap time was not so bad.

“In my opinion we were one second away from what the other guys were doing. For me that is where we are right now and if we wanted to push a bit more that could be a matter of tenths of a second. We are not looking at lap times, especially with conditions like today. At Portimao with two full dry days maybe we will be closer to understanding where we are.”

For Haslam this first Honda test with their 2020 peer group, as opposed to their own private tests so far, was a double-edged sword. “It is always nice to test with others to see where we are but where we are at it does not really matter – at all! We’re doing our programme and we have things to get through so whatever lap time we do - if it is one tenth off or ten seconds off - it actually makes no difference right now. We have got a plan to go to. Come Phillip Island it will matter but right now we just need to concentrate on us and have everything in place.”

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