Leon Haslam will remain with the factory Honda squad for the 2021 WorldSBK Championship after HRC confirmed an unchanged rider line-up for next season.
The manufacturer reverted to a full-factory Barcelona-based squad for 2020 off the back of the new Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade launch with Bautista and Haslam joining from Ducati and Kawasaki respectively.
While there has never been a public communication over the length of Bautista’s Honda deal, the Spaniard was always expected to remain having been lured from Ducati – where he was a 14-time race winner in 2019 alone – and is considered one of the highest-paid riders on the grid.
There remained some doubts over whether Haslam – on a one-year deal would be retained – not least with Chaz Davies becoming available this week following the decision to part ways with Ducati, but the veteran Englishman is now confirmed to have re-signed.
“To say I’m pleased about renewing my contract with Team HRC would be an understatement,” he said. “This year has been difficult, with COVID-19 and limited test sessions, but I knew right from the start that this project has great potential, so to have a second year in which to continue developing the Fireblade and working with the team is very important to me.
“I’m really confident that we can be fighting for the top steps of the podium in WorldSBK and that’s my ultimate goal; to work towards this with Honda and Team HRC is fantastic. I’m excited and can’t wait for the 2021 season to get underway.”
HRC announced it would take its WorldSBK effort in house from the 2020 season at the end of 2018 in line with the introduction of the new generation Fireblade, in so doing severing ties with long-time partner Ten Kate Racing.
However, progress with the new bike has been steady, not helped by the delays to the season during the COVID-19 pandemic, but glimmers have potential have shone including Bautista’s run to the podium in Aragon to secure Honda’s first podium since 2016.
Though Haslam is yet to stand on the podium – with his best finish of fourth from Motorland Aragon – he is only eight points shy of his esteemed team-mate in the overall standings with only this weekend’s Estoril finale to go.
“We are pleased to announce that Leon Haslam will remain a part of our Team HRC factory squad for another year. Leon is an experienced and highly motivated rider who has strongly committed to our WorldSBK project since joining Honda at the end of 2019,” Yoshishige Nomura, the president of HRC, said.
“He’s been working hard with the HRC engineers to exploit the full potential of production model CBR1000RR-R SP Fireblade despite all the limitations and challenges posed by the globally unsettling COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Confirming our rider line-up will bring continuity to our project and allow us to continue along our growth path in the most important production-based Championship. We are confident that we have the potential to win races as well as the title and we will continue to work towards this goal.”
This announcement means all ten factory seats on the 2021 WorldSBK grid have been decided with Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes at Kawasaki, Scott Redding and Michael Ruben Rinaldi at Ducati, Toprak Razgatlioglu and Andrea Locatelli at Yamaha and Michael van der Mark and Tom Sykes at BMW.