WorldSBK | How Coronavirus affected HRC’s comeback campaign

How impactful is the Coronavirus forced break for Honda after 18 years of absence as a full factory team in Superbike?

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WorldSBK | How Coronavirus affected HRC’s comeback campaign
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HRC’s comeback to WorldSBK as a full factory team after 18 years was put on hold after the Australian round at Phillip Island due to the outbreak of Coronavirus. It might not have been the return the Japanese outfit had envisioned, but team manager Jaume Colom is adamant that, once the season is resumed, on-track action will be as thrilling as it was in Australia.

Aside from recruiting Alvaro Bautista and Leon Haslam, bringing back Honda as a factory team required a massive effort. Given the unprecedented situation the whole world is experiencing, the work and development pace has been reduced, but factory operations need to carry on, especially for a team that has been recently set up.

“We knew that the beginning would not be easy,” -said Colom on At a logistical level, we have started from scratch, from the most basic things, going through all the material, tools and personnel. This requires many hours and a lot of work. I am very excited about the project, but we have to wait for the current situation to improve and we can recover normal life and work”.

Not only has Coronavirus taken a toll on travelling, but also on human interactions in workplaces. Hence, the environment of a newly-established team can only suffer a dramatic upset in this sort of circumstances. As Colom outlined, office work cannot fully replace what is done at the track.

“From a sporting side, the current circumstances affect us a lot, because what we need are hours of training and being on the track. Work has continued in Japan, but with the bike and its development, we cannot do anything. As I say, in HRC the activity has continued, but working in the office is not the same as working on the track. All the data we got from Australia has been analised – what would help us now is to keep on riding the bike”.

The extent of a high-profile gamble is always unknown until the riders of a new team actually clock their first laptimes at the track. Getting a new bike rolling is always a leap in the dark, as teams always need to be braced for the worst while hoping for the best. Pre-season testing did not provide a reliable set of data due to adverse weather conditions and that impacted Honda quite heavily.

“One advantage for us was having two very experienced riders. It is something that also helps a lot to get the bike ready. We went to Australia not knowing what level we would be at, we couldn’t get much done in the preseason tests due to poor weather conditions . We would have liked to train some more and get to Australia with a better developed bike. That wasn’t the case, and we left Phillip Island with a bittersweet aftertaste…”

This first Coronavirus emergency phase might have stalled everything, but Colom believes that the exciting show will pick up right from what we witnessed throughout the first round.

“I think we will continue to have the show we saw in Australia. The break affects us all, so when we return to compete we can expect many races like those we saw there. This would be good for the fans, if we could continue to see that level and that level of excitement in every race. Having six, seven or eight riders reaching the finish line in the same second is the best thing that can happen to motorcycling!”

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