Leon Camier loomed over the assembled media after WorldSBK testing had been completed at Phillip Island, his status as an official HRC/Honda rider growing by the day.
His bike’s performance is not quite so close to his own vertical stature yet, but Camier still ended the test just over a second behind the absolute fastest man, Alvaro Bautista. The Fireblade bike is making progress, and is a very, very different beast from his outwardly similar 2018 version.
“The feeling on the bike could not be more different,” said Camier. “I can’t explain how different, but it is so different. Amazing. Before we came here last year we had a lot more time on the 2018 bike and it was obviously developed around Pirellis, and there was a lot of information. For this bike it is the first time here, it’s been developed with other tyres, there is so much information you need to get.
“I get the feeling here it is really step-by-step. Every change we made, we have to be sure every big change we make is in the right direction. I think it is going to take a bit of time, it is not going to happen tomorrow or the next day, but I think some progress will be made. There are a lot of strong points of this bike, a lot of good points, but it is going to take a bit of time to come good.”
Camier said he was not testing huge items of chassis development - swingarms, links, triple clamps, all the things you would do in a big shakedown test. But he has some components to try out.
“We had a different link here, one different option of offset, I think, and I think that’s it. There are not a lot of different parts, geometry wise, to try. So it is a little bit like figuring out what we have to the maximum and then you go to the next step.”
Is there one aspect of chassis performance that is screaming out for instant improvement, according to Camier: not really…
“There are a few things on the chassis that the guys want to change, that have experience of this bike. But it is a step-by-step process with these guys, to make any headway, and it is difficult to really say. This bike seems to react so different than the bike last year. It is so different you cannot believe. More stable, really stable, so stable. There are positives and negatives but considering it has only done a few days on Pirelli tyres, that is to be expected.”
The bike also does react in the way that Camier would expect when he or his team make a change, according to his observations so far.
“Considering it is still a Honda, is very different. You can make a change and I am like going, “I am not sure about this…” - and it is not what I thought at all.”
Having tested at Buriram in Thailand, Camier expects to have at least some reference points there. “I think we will have a base where we are at straight away. I think for sure it is definitely not going to be fast enough. We have done a similar time to last year but I think everyone has gone quicker again.”
“I hope so” said Camier about his chances of having a decent base the time he reaches Europe. “We will have a base of where we think is the best of the package we have got. When we are ready I hope then there will be some upgrades and some new things to try and then we will figure out what is the best. I really don’t think it is going to be a quick turnaround. It is going to be a bit of a long process. But things will improve for sure, I am confident about that.”
Can you feel a difference in the characteristics, or strength of the engine?
“The characteristics of it, I feel a big difference. Way more linear this one. Really linear, nice to ride. That is a positive for sure. From a power point of view it is difficult to say, I think this is not bad. From the speeds I think it is pretty good. We did some tyre runs earlier on today and did quite a few laps on the tyres. Then this afternoon we tried to go quite a bit faster but did not really manage to go much quicker.”