It’s all eyes on round one as preseason testing concludes

Race Preview
The Honda Racing UK team rounds out a very busy four days of preseason testing at the Circuito de Navarra in the Bennetts British Superbike championship and Quattro Group British Supersport series. Utilising the open pitlane format of the test, Honda’s trio of Superbike riders each worked through a multitude of new components, set ups and clocked valuable mileage on their respective Fireblades. 

Although Andrew Irwin experienced some difficulties during the opening day of the test, which belied his true pace and restricted his running, he emerged quickest of the Honda riders on combined times at the close of play. He made significant steps forward from the opening session of the test to the last, shaving off over five seconds in lap time in the process, to end the test seventh on combined times (ahead of him on the timing screens multiple riders utilised two bikes during the test). Test complete, his focus now turns to the weekend ahead.

Building on a positive Donington test earlier in the month, Tommy Bridewell continued his adaptation to the Honda Fireblade at the 2.4-mile Spanish circuit and dedicated his time to learning the characteristics of his bike and finding the limit. Fast and consistent throughout the test and undeterred from his crashes, he ended the test eighth on combined times and less than a tenth behind his Honda stablemate. He has his sights firmly set on taking the fight to his competitors as he mounts his championship defence well aware that the season is long and championships are built on solid foundations. 

A fast crash on day one of testing at turn one knocked some of the momentum from Dean Harrison just at the moment that he was beginning to unleash some impressive pace. From this moment he then focused his time to rebuilding his confidence and he made incremental improvements throughout the remainder of the test to finish just six tenths behind his teammates and certain that he had more in his pocket had the rain not disrupted his final session. Although nineteenth on combined times, the midfield battle is incredibly tight with just a second covering sixth through to nineteenth. Points on the board from his first Honda race is his clear target.

Gaining valuable track time on the latest Fireblade, John McGuinness was also in attendance, where he spent time on each of the three BSB bikes and was able to provide detailed feedback and input to all three riders and relevant crew chiefs. This outing also provided him with some much-needed Superbike time and setup direction ahead of his road racing season ahead. 

Meanwhile, on his CBR600RR, Jack Kennedy utilised four sessions across two days to continue his transition back into the Supersport class and develop his setting for the weekend of racing ahead. Although rain rendered the first session inactive, Jack wasted no time in getting up to speed and topped the times on the first day. Despite a small tip off on the second day Jack backed up this strong pace and made a big step forward during the second day. He ended the test second on combined times and looked strong in race trim. 

For full testing results click here.

#18 Andrew Irwin

Testing hasn’t been straightforward to tell the truth as we struggled on the opening day, but then moving into the second day we significantly improved the base setting which enabled us to continue making steps forward as the test went on. We haven't really done as many laps as we would have liked to as we waited for some parts to arrive, so I feel a little bit behind in terms of track time, but we have to remember we have a new bike which is actually very different to what we had in 2023 and it will take time to maximise the potential. I am riding with split throttles again after experimenting with some things, but I am really getting used to that feeling and the benefit that it offers. I think there is a bit of a step for us to make to be right at the front, but I think we are not far away. The target is two top-five finishes, which would provide a solid foundation from which we can build into the season ahead. I am riding in a good way and we are only going to get stronger as we continue to adapt to what we have. 
Best lap: 1:37.129

#1 Tommy Bridewell

Fundamentally it has been a positive test, yes we have had a couple of small crashes but we are learning and trying to find exactly where the limit is, and to understand exactly where we are at. I feel really good on the bike, especially on race runs where we are strong. We have spent the last two and a half days focussing on this new Ohlins shock, which truthfully works really differently to the previous one. We back to back tested against an older spec and the new spec is absolutely a big step forward, which is a real positive. There is a little more to learn about the front end, but we still have the practice sessions at the weekend, and I think on one-lap time attacks we are not quite as strong as we want to be. Looking ahead to the weekend I have experience previously from not winning the championship and then winning it last year, so I know how championships are won and lost. I see it as a pyramid, you have to make sure you have a good strong foundation on which to build. Yes we want to come out of the starting blocks fighting but the season is long. We have race pace to be running at the front, whether that's winning or top six, we are in the fight even though there is more learning to come to maximise this package.
Best lap: 1:37.158

#5 Dean Harrison

Look, any crash at those speeds sets you back a little bit and it took a few runs following it to then get back up to speed and get back into it. I definitely felt that I could have gone quicker again in the final session but with rain and drizzle we decided to call it and focus on the weekend. We have tried all sorts with the bike, we have gone up, down, left and right to learn what works and what doesn't work with the bike and we definitely have some more to come, there is more in the bike and there is more in me. It has been really good to work with my teammates, I’ve spent a lot of time bouncing ideas around with Tommy and discussing settings, I’ve looked through his data, he’s looked at mine. We’ve gone in different directions but we are both feeding back the same things, which is reassuring. It makes you feel like you’re not going mad which is good! I think points on the board in both races is where we need to be. This track is not my ideal style of track, it’s a Spanish track and I find it quite difficult, you really have to get into a flow around here to be fast. We need to make a step in our one-lap pace to help with qualifying to give us a helping hand in the race. It is so, so tight in the midfield so it puts a bit of an emphasis on getting a good grid slot. 
Best lap: 1:37.984

#1 John McGuinness MBE

It feels absolutely great to be out on track again on the Superbike and to be back with the team. I was out at the launch of the road bike in Portimao and thought that was a big step forward and I was excited then to get on the Superbike, because that's the bike everyone wants to ride. I appreciate we are all under a bit of pressure with it being such a new bike and having to get everything prepared for a big year, so it’s great to be with the team out at this test getting time on all three bikes. I got to spend time giving some feedback to everyone, which I think has helped and has been really enjoyable. To be out on track with some of the best Superbike riders in the world is quite eye-opening, they are unbelievably fast! It was a personal goal to get into the 40’s and I did that. There is nothing like being in the Honda suit, in the Honda garage, with the Factory team around you. Riding a full-blown, all-singing, all-dancing Fireblade is just fantastic and I feel like I’m in a really sweet spot. 
Best lap: 1:40.808

#4 Jack Kennedy

I feel, just like at Donington, our pace is good, which at the end of the day is exactly what it comes down to, race pace and consistency. Our consistency is something that we have really worked on, as well as trying many different things with the bike to learn. We’ve also tested in various track temperatures which is important because we have two races at different times in the day, the track is cold in the morning and warmer later in the day, probably with a difference of 10-15 degrees. Our one-off lap time was quite good there towards the end, even though I think the track went away from us in truth as the track was a little greasy. I had an unfortunate tip-off earlier and gave the team a lot of work to do, so I apologise for that, but it feels good to go out and repay them with a strong lap time and top the final session. I think the minimum from the weekend that we can expect is to walk away with two podiums and get some strong points on the board, but there is a lot to learn. There are a lot of variables, we have a new bike, we are at a new track and we won't know where we are until we get racing. 
Best lap: 1:39.831

Team Manager Havier Beltran

I have to give credit to the team who have worked extremely hard during these four days of testing. We have made some big changes to the bikes and the team has worked exceptionally well to ensure that we are in a good position heading into the weekend. I have been really impressed with how each of our riders have worked together and the harmony and positivity in the garage is great to see. Let’s see what the weekend will bring!