Leon Haslam is clearly in better shape to take on the 2020 season than factory HRC team-mate Alvaro Bautista, if evidence from the Portimao WorldSBK test is anything to go by.
Inside the top six, Haslam felt good on race tyres and got through a big chunk of the planned development tasks on his all-new bike - finishing two seconds faster than Bautista who was deeply unhappy.
“We did quite a lot more laps today and got through a lot of items that we wanted to,” Haslam confirmed to bikesportnews.com. “We made some good steps for sure and I’m happy with our race tyres.
“I tried a qualifier at the end but we didn’t really gain that much time. But the race tyre times were within one or two tenths of whoever was going fast at the same time. We made some good steps and had a fully-dry day so I can’t grumble.”
Haslam was not sure if his much greater experience of Superbikes of all kinds was the reason he was so far ahead of his team-mate at this stage, but he is aware that Bautista is a class act who should come good sooner rather than later.
“Alvaro wasn’t too fast in pre-season last year and then won the all first races so I’m not counting him out just yet,” said Haslam. “He’s got a lot of experience and this is just a process for both of us right now.
I’m feeling comfortable with what we’ve achieved and as a team we’ve got a clear direction of what we want to do and try. All in all we are actually pretty close, so I’m happy.”
With so many good experiences, and a track layout that should not hurt the new Honda in terms of engine speed, PI could well be an ideal venue for Haslam to kick off the season at.
“Phillip Island is quite a unique circuit. I’ve managed to podium with six different manufacturers round there, so I don’t think it’s about what bike you have around Phillip Island, more about your style.
“I am looking forward to it from that perspective. Alvaro goes well there, he’s had a top four in a MotoGP and won the races comfortably there last year, so I’m interested to see what we do in the two days of testing out there. It’s step by step-by-step right now but to be this close so soon is very promising.”
The team launch will be Tokyo shortly before the tests start in Australia. And Haslam is being kept busy in general in his new role.
“It’s going to be busy with a few trips before Australia but it’s quite exciting. Normally you’d be over the travelling at this point but I just want to get going and get over to Phillip Island.”