Alvaro Bautista (HRC Honda) on the Honda CBR-1000RR-R, last year the little Spaniard took his first podium right away. Will most opponents only see him from this perspective in 2021? (© HRC Honda).

HRC Honda and Alex Lowes and their first March test in Jerez

The HRC Honda team met again in Andalusia a week and a half before the big first two-day test in Barcelona (from March 31st to April 1st). According to the new team manager Leon Camier, they had a very productive test session at the Circuito de Jerez. The works team was on the track on Friday, March 19 and Saturday, March 20 with their two experienced drivers Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam to ensure optimal preparation for the coming season of the Superbike World Championship. As previously announced by us, Alex Lowes was also a guest on the new Kawasaki ZX-10RR.

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki ZX-10RR) – For his extra test, his team took a day’s journey there and back before continuing at their headquarters in Barcelona at the end of March. That must be true love, what the Englishman can feel from his team! (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

HRC Honda on their program in Andalusia

After the progress of the tests in January was hampered by unstable weather conditions, HRC decided to postpone a test on the Jerez de la Frontera track before Barcelona. In near perfect weather conditions, Bautista completed two full days of testing, while the Briton decided to only use half a day on Saturday and keep the remaining hours for another occasion as the days of testing are limited. The couple tested a number of upgrades in different areas for their CBR-1000RR-R FIREBLADE SP.

Alvaro Bautista to his 2-day test in Jerez:We’ve done a lot of work over the past two days, making the most of two sunny days with no evidence of fog or rain, which unfortunately prevented us from doing any real work on the Honda in January. It was important to complete the entire testing program, covering the setup of the bike in general and specifics like brakes and electronics, areas where we focused a little more. The session was very useful in providing the information engineers need to continue working on improvements in Japan. I am very happy with our work and think we now have a clearer idea of where to focus on the next test“.

Beaming man Alvaro Bautista photographed by us in April as the winner of the 2019 European kick-off in Aragon. The Spaniard did not mind the low temperatures at all, he won all three races on the Ducati Panigale V4R. To the surprise of all observers, the vice world champion switched to HRC Honda from 2019 to the 2020 season.

Leon Haslam:It was a very positive test, especially because we were only able to do about ten laps on the 2021 bike last time due to the bad weather. So it was very important to have that day and a half. There was a long list of things to try, and we could go through almost anything. We found more consistency and I feel a lot more confident. Now we’re going to Barcelona with everyone else, where we can better understand where we are and how the Honda works. We only spent half a day on Saturday as we have to be careful given the limited testing days available“.

Leon Haslam 2012 as a BMW driver in WorldSBK. The son of the former HRC GP works driver “Rocket Ron” has an eventful past in the Superbike World Championship. For more information, see our richly illustrated history area on this page.

The feedback from Kawasaki after the first March test in Jerez

Marcel Duinker, Crew Chief of Alex Lowes:Alex hadn’t ridden the new bike in a while, but he was impressive from the second or third lap on. One of the goals of this test was to check his physical condition after his little accident with a ligament injury to his shoulder. But we quickly saw that he was already at 99% of his capacity. The other priority was to test some parts of the landing gear over the distance and that is now done. Alex drove almost 120 laps in these two days. At the end of Saturday he was using a racing tire and a Q tire and was the fastest on the track with both racing and Q tires. His time of 1’39.6 on a racing tire and a 1’38.9 on a Q was more than satisfactory.” (The editors: Bautista’s 2019 lap record is 1,39.007 and Rea set an absolute lap record in Superpole with 1,38,247 in the same season).

Alex Lowes (left) with his Dutch crew Chief Duinker before the start in Phillip Island 2020. After the Englishman had only concentrated on his race pace during the pre-tests instead of being fast over one lap, many observers rushed to write him off. They all had to relearn quickly because he then left Australia as World Cup leader (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

Duinker additionally noticed: “Alex was quick, consistent, and didn’t complain of minor physical limitations. We are right on schedule. We missed some tests, but in the end it didn’t affect us at all. The weather was nice and hot, but the wind was very strong, so it wasn’t ideal. I think the track wasn’t as fast as it was in November because the wind was strong and inconsistent, and it was quite annoying for the drivers. We still have six test days before the start of the season, so we are confident and look forward to the next test in Barcelona“.

Alex Lowes and the new Kawasaki ZX-10RR on the Circuito de Jerez. For the twin brother of Moto2 rider Sam in Andalusia, things have not gone as planned in the last two years. The best result in 2020 was a 5th place in the second race on Sunday (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

Alex Lowes: I was very happy to be back on track with the team on these two afternoons. At first, I wasn’t sure how much to do with my shoulder, but I could do a lot of laps. In the end it was 65 as far as I can remember, and I was able to continue the work we had started with the new package in November. We literally started where we left off, the pace was good, and we found some positive steps with the bike. Also, with my driving style, since in winter I concentrated on being calmer at the exit of the corners. It was a really positive test, and we ticked all the boxes we set out to do for those two days. We are looking forward to the official test now in Montmelo on the Circuito de Cataluña. A big thank you to Kawasaki, KRT and the whole team for doing this extra test for me after we missed two with injuries before that. I’m really happy to get 2021 going again.

WorldSBK almost 7 years ago with Jonathan Rea in the lead on Pata Honda and behind with 22 Alex Lowes in his first WSBK season for Crescent Suzuki. Far left Leon Haslam as Rea’s team-mate at the time – it was the Northern Irishman’s last year on a Honda before he started for Kawasaki. For more about the previous years see under “History” on this page (© WorldSBK).

In a week and a half it will continue in Barcelona

The development work by HRC Honda and Kawasaki will now be resumed at the base before the official Dorna test session in Catalonia on March 31st and April 1st again on the racetrack. In the penultimate week of March, BMW is still expected in Andalusia. The blue-whites had the longest break of all and all observers are excited about their new M-1000RR. With the works team and two new private teams, BMW now even has four drivers with a huge backpack of experience in their luggage. In addition to joker Tom Sykes, Mister Superpole, a new compatriot of team boss Marc Bongers, “Magic Michael” van der Mark, will be driving at his side in the works team. Eugene Laverty and Jonas Folger are competing in separate private teams and will be able to provide additional input to advance the development of the brand new “M” BMW. Hopefully the skeptics are wrong, who don’t believe in getting the new bike competitive within just under 2 months.

Leon Haslam (HRC Honda) on the Circuito de Jerez – in contrast to the Moto2 riders in Losail, the fast Englishman had no limit on how many laps he was allowed to drive, and he used this too (© HRC Honda).