When Honda introduced the new CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP in November, 2019, the revamped superbike was clearly aimed at track riders. Packing 215 horsepower, a new aluminum diamond chassis, compact ergonomics, and winglets, the new Fireblade sharpened its toolset for the raceway. More specifically, for the Superbike World Championship (WSBK) circuits.
For the 2021 WSBK season, the CBR1000RR-R receives a similar livery to the 2020 season but title sponsor Motul gets added to the mix. Under the fairings, the Fireblade underwent engine, chassis, and electronics updates over the winter. While the changes are modest, Honda hopes the factory team can take a step forward in 2021.
After a 17-year hiatus from the WSBK paddock, the factory Honda team returned in 2019. However, team operations moved under Honda Racing Corporation’s (HRC) control in 2020. That season also marked the first year Honda ran the updated CBR1000RR-R with two new (to the team) riders at the helm.
Coming over from Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK, Leon Haslam brought a wealth of Superbike experience to the new Honda outfit. After making the jump from MotoGP in 2018, Alvaro Bautista raced under the Aruba.it Ducati banner for one year before joining the factory Honda team in 2020 as well. While the veteran riders offered a high level of racecraft, COVID-19 restrictions hampered the Fireblade’s development.
As a result, the team only achieved one podium when Bautista captured third place in the fourth round at Aragon (Spain). Aside from that lone podium, both Haslam and Bautista struggled aboard the new CBR1000RR-R. By season’s end, the two tied on points and finished 10th and 9th in the championship, respectively. Honda placed fourth in the manufacturer’s title behind Kawasaki, Ducati, and Yamaha.
The man tasked with Honda’s turnaround is former WSBK rider Leon Camier. The new team manager will draw on his own experience as a Honda rider with hopes of capturing more podiums and wins in 2021. If we know anything about Honda racing, it won’t be long before the pieces come together under the new Fireblade.