Jerez WorldSBK Test: Nicky Hayden And Stefan Bradl On The New Honda

Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl had their first experience of the all new for 2017 Honda Fireblade on the opening day of the Jerez test, and it was clear that there is still plenty of work to be done by the Ten Kate squad to get the bikes ready for the start of the season.

With the Phillip Island opener only four weeks away the Dutch team faces a race against time to be up to speed for the start of the WorldSBK campaign. Both riders made it clear that it is very early days for the project and were unwilling to offer definitive opinions as a result, but initial impressions were positive.

"The team has had the bikes two weeks so you can only do so much in two weeks as an independent team. The engine at the moment, we're just happy to have an engine that's racy – let's say just not out of the street bike. They literally built the engine that would come here and last so of course there is some work to be done in a lot of areas. I pretty much matched the same lap time I did here at the race with race tires so it's a starting point," said Hayden. "Of course, I'd have loved to be doing 1:40s but we didn't expect that. It just don't happen in racing, so."

In his second season in the WorldSBK championship the American will know that time is of the essence for him to win races and titles. While it is realistic to expect Ten Kate to take time to develop the Fireblade into a race winning package it can also be taken for granted that Hayden will be impatient and pushing the team hard to the limit. Last year the Dutch squad found out exactly why the 35-year-old's work ethic is seen as his greatest attribute. It will be crucial in the coming tests for the team.

"We chipped away at it and took a couple of chunks here and there. Also, my condition, is still not 100 percent after my knee injury. It'll be another month before I'm fully ready and I wasn't able to go at my maximum today. The gap to the Kawasakis looks really bad today but we have to stay calm and realize what we're in for. You dream of showing up and getting a surprise and the bike is way better than you expected and way closer. It's been a long time since I've had that happen so I was prepared for a first day test like this."

Having only received the bike in the last three weeks there are still plenty of new parts to be added to the package. Bradl commented, "This is the first spec engine so there is a lot more to come from it. We need to work on the electronic settings too. We've got a lot of problems also with wheelie control. There are a lot of things that are not working with each other well in the electronics. The wheelie control is acting aggressive. Overall the first day is OK but still a lot of work in front of us, which we knew. It's not unexpected."

Bradl was aware of the challenge facing the team and was mentally prepared for it but like Hayden knows that the clock is ticking towards the season opener.

"We have some good guys working in the team but we also know there is a lot of work in front of us," said the 2011 Moto2 World Champion. "There is not too long before the first race. We know we're a little bit behind. We have to find our way. I'm pretty sure that in two or three months we can make a big step. We can't expect huge steps before that. The guys need to go back to the workshop, summarize everything and get back to work there. Then we can make the next step. I hope that for the Aragon race, the first in Europe, we can expect something more."

The Ten Kate Honda team will continue to test this week in Jerez and Portimao.

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I know that it is still very early in the development of the bike but I am disappointed in the lack of HRC support. I don't see this as a good sign for the team. They are starting off behind the rest of the other teams.

I see your point. "Independent team" comment from Nick speaks to it.

Nicky's push on his team and pull w Honda is a help. The team is further behind than they should be - Honda could have gotten things to them sooner. But what they have there has a lot more left in it obviously. Nicky is complimenting the motor potential. "Aggressive wheelie control" means it is cutting too much power, which is a GREAT first "problem" for Bradl to mention.

Perhaps van Der Mark would have been just ahead of Fores yesterday had he not been back there on his more developed and less powerful R1 (regrets are on the way). I was curious how the R1 with its electronics suite was going to race and it seems to be lacking. Just not enough motor eh? Holding out hope for this Honda, and looking fwd to seeing Nicky's strengths at PI and development carry it forward. And sideways. Trap speeds vs the Kawi will be interesting.

Like every class beater ever, the Kawasaki will be deposed. Before Honda lost vDM it lost Rea. Because it took not only dropped a V4 Homologation Special that was ready for production, but then took NINE YEARS to birth this CBR1000rr. HRC crapped the bed with their MotoGP projects for the last few years. Dropped their middleweight bike altogether. Their lightweight "sportbikes" are shite for racing. They aren't making any customer CRT's. Moto2 engines have been managed by a contractor.

Ten Kate is a SOLID garage. At this point I am looking straight at HRC and this bike with a steady expectant gaze. If it isn't great, they have some explaining to do.

Ofcourse you can be dissapointed in Honda but I think instead we all should be dissapointed in Ducati and Kawasaki and maybe Aprilia.  In my opinion WSBK would be better off without the factory run teams with MotoGP like budgets.


... and hasn't been since the VTR was raced and even then it was run out of Honda Racing's HQ in Louth, UK (where the roads and EWC teams now operate out of).

So it isn't a factory based effort in that sense, it is run by Ten Kate but the overall programme is managed by Honda Motor Europe so not quite a customer team either. Bit confusing yes?

HRC and Honda are two different companies. HRC had some input into the development of the Fireblade SP2 the WorldSBK machine is based on but apart from that, they have very very little input into the programme. Ten Kate build the bikes, Cosworth help develop the engines, Honda Europe manage the programme. 

This isn't a full factory effort like Kawasaki or Ducati, but this year good things are expected.