Being around 2.5 seconds slower than the fastest rider was not where Alvaro Bautista thought he would be even at this relatively early stage of proceedings on his full-house HRC CBR, but well into the teens in the Portimao WorldSBK test rankings is where he finished up.
His team-mate Leon Haslam, with one more test – at Portimao no less – under his belt than Bautista, was much closer to the leaders. What Bautista was positive about were some aspects of development but happy he wasn’t.
“Happy… when you work in this way to make a big change in the bike to get information, for sure you never find the feeling to push. But in the end this is work that we have to do,” he told bikesportnews.com on his rush to get out of Portimao.
“Right now we are searching for a good base for the bike. It’s, maybe, harder than I expected it to be but it’s the work that we have to do now. We made a lot of modifications during this test and we gained a lot of information for the engineers.
I think that the test in Australia will be very important because especially after these two days – Jerez was impossible - now they have to work in the factory to give me what I’ve asked for in Australia. It will be important, that test.”
Few punches pulled then, but Bautista was almost in the same position last year with Ducati, until he went to Australia, finally found a V4R front end set-up and cleared off. There is a significant difference this year.
“I think that this is similar to last winter with Ducati but last year the bike was more ready and the team had more experience of the bike,” he explained.
“They were more prepared, a little bit, because this project is so young and was only born three months ago. We need more time and I think that we need at least three or four more tests to stay at the same level as I felt last year.
“But for that reason that is why I say it all depends on how they work in the factory to give me what I’ve asked for. We’ll see in Australia. We need to improve my feeling with the bike and let me find more confidence. That is the target right now the main problem we are searching.”
Front-end confidence in particular seems to be his bugbear, and the chassis in general is the next point on the powerful new Honda’s development timeline to focus on for Alvaro.
“From Jerez in December to here we’ve improved the character of the engine and made a big step with this. And it improved a lot. We worked a lot on the engine and electronics in the winter and didn’t touch the frame and everything. Our target was to make this work in Jerez and here maybe have some ideas. Now they have some time to work in the factory and we’ll see in Australia.”