WorldSBK: Clock Is Ticking As Hayden And Honda Search For Solutions

Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in their search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team's struggles will continue

Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again.

Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.

“We haven’t improved enough this year and at the Portimao test before Assen we were doing similar times to January,” said a clearly disappointed Hayden. “I think that was big blow to all of us and, I’m not going to lie, we went there expecting to see some improvement. We had a new engine upgrade and it was a smoother power delivery but it was too smooth and it wasn't a step forward. It's possible that there was some stuff wrong with that engine and once they got it back to the workshop they might have found something.

“That test was just a big blow for us and I wasn't happy at all because we need to find some power. We had some other problems at that test and maybe that could can be a little wakeup call for the team and help all of us realize what’s going on. It’s not working and we need to take a different path. We can’t use a lack of time with the bike as an excuse any longer because we've now had eight races and a lot of testing. With this much data on the bike and no real significant gain in lap time it's clear that there is a problem.”

That problem initially centered on the electronics of the bike and issues with throttle connection and engine braking. At the Portimao test those issues reared their head again and while the team had hoped to use the new specification at Assen Hayden didn't want risk adding another engine to the allocation that could cause issues.

“I have a problem adding the new engine because I’ve already used a lot of engines this year because I had a problem with one. To bring another engine into the circulation is tough at this point in the season because I don’t want to be starting from the pit road later in the year because of allocation issues.”

There are plenty of other issues to be addressed as well with Hayden's Friday woes adding to his feeling that the team should bring in some additional resources.

“I was hoping with the new big sponsor for this year we would see more resources. I know we are just a satellite team but maybe we can add one or two people to the team - an engineer and a third mechanic for each rider. On Friday morning I had a water leak and it took time to fix it. Then I missed the whole second session with another problem. We have so many problems. Who expects that you have to screw down the clutch cover or drain water during practice? If everything goes smoothly, two mechanics are enough. In our situation though we could benefit from one extra.”

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Across all the major forms of international motorsport, Honda is getting it's butt kicked in just about every category when it comes to engine performance.

F1= unreliable, down on power

WSBK= down on power

MotoGP=down on power, acceleration

Honda's legendary engine building strength now appears to be it's weakness... 

is not from a lack of power, but rather not being able to get the rear wheel traction to use it.  The short wheelbase of the RC213V compared to other bikes may be much to blame, but if so it would require close to a total redesign of the bike to fix.

I do not think Honda is doing that bad in Motogp. Personal expectations a litte too high, maybe?

Hey, MotoGP is a competition!

3 MotoGP championships in the past 4 years (including last year) aren't bad.

If Honda is doing badly in MotoGP, then what about the other guys?

Honda have been Fcking Hayden for some time now. I hope they get their act together real soon but I wont hold my breath. I'd like to see him jump to a new manufacturer soon. Im glad he starting to let frustrations known. Hayden has always been a stand up guy. You never hear anything negative come out of his mouth but it's also never got him the improvements he needs. 
He deserves better

The comments about the clutch cover and water drainage sounded like they were directed at someone in particular. Perhaps Nicky is trying to say something to someone who hasn't been listening?

It's a shame that Nicky and Stefan are struggling so badly. As a lifelong Honda fan, it pains me to see Big Red take such a lackluster approach to World Superbike, especially with a former World Champion. I can't believe that neither Honda nor Red Bull seem to be especially animated about this.

nitpicking :)

The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend but overall the same flaws have been exposed of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again

Can't help but think this is a way of pressurizing Ten Kate / Honda to get their thumb/finger out of... and do something radical. I feared when Hayden was going to Honda in WSBK he wouldn't be competitive due to the package, seeing how Rea & VDM fared on it.

the honda operation ..  it's  nail biting ....

i would gues it's bye bye hayden after this season,..  loyalty will end at some point .. 



Hayden is far too awesome a guy to be languishing on the edge of a top ten result. I wouldn't mind seeing him on one of the two factory Ducati bikes, and I'm sure they'd love to have him back. Unfortunatley, there aren't many other competitive bikes he's got to look to, if he doesn't want to wait for Honda to improve. Besides, even an improved Honda would only get him where the Yamahas are now, which is still way off the podium in regular races. 

. . . . . that's bloody close to fire breating negativity, and he's getting damned close to losing his temper.  And especially after doing respectibly well last year one what was supposedly a completely obsolete bike.  One win, and a fifth place finish.

Then again, I'm starting to wonder just how serious Honda is regarding sportbikes anymore.  At the dealership where I'm employed, it's Yamaha's that are selling, not Honda's.  And nobody here is expecting Honda to come up with anything to turn that around.  Thank God for Gold Wing's and ATV's.

Honda's engineering excellence had drained away and the fighting spirit of founder Soichiro Honda is more a memory with each passing season.

I think you are to romantic about the Honda's past of engineering excellence. In my opinion after the V4's and first generation fireblades Honda just did wat they do best: building high quality usable and nice bikes for the mass. The whole Asian community is riding at all the same Honda's daily....

Honda achieves this without being the most sexiest of pinnacle of engineering, since the history unfortunately shows that people tend to shy away from to hot, to sharp of too exotic. The market for the sharpest bikes is too small for a big manufacturer.

I think building bikes like Honda does is just another kind of engineering excellence.......

... Honda keeps winning the IOM TT.

... Have won 3/4 of the last MotoGP rider's championships

... make the best selling sports bike on the market (Fireblade)


Brand new bike has issues, no big surprise.  Yeah it sucks, but even as per the article, Nicky mentioned there may have been something wrong with that particular engine.  Yes, it sucks, but it also happens from time to time.

They'll get there, i have no doubt.

3 engineers per rider in a sattelite team? Is he kidding? This not repsol Honda Motogp timeframe.... Otherwise things must wel well off since Hayden has a reputation for loyality and not blaming his employers openly. Maybe Hayden and Bradl are affraid to lose every option next year except BSB.

I think 3 engineers per rider goes well beyond the whole base principles of the WK superbike class. Not Honda is doing that bad in my opinion. I think Kawasaki and Ducati are to blame for spoiling the party with to biggest motorhomes, the first row pitboxes, and an army of engineers at home and travelling. And a rider that does it for free (Melandri).

For a true sattelite time with a standard based bike it is not to be expected to get it fully sorted out with the elektronics. 6 years ago, with james Toseland on the Ten Kate bike, there where no elektronics at all.

That is the nature of the rules bases in limited budget and resources. Kawasaki and Ducati may have managed it a lot better, but while spending such an amount of money they need to be chased out of the class into motop.

Yamaha is also not at the level desired, while having a nice package

BMW was a winner some time ago, but no team gets it dialed in right now.

Aprilia is said to have the best package, but also they do not have the amount of money to throw at dataengineers

MV agusta is doing relatively good, with only one bike at the grid

I think, despite the dissapointing results, we should not blame Honda for following the base principles of the class, where others do not. I think their biggest fault is to attract ex-motogp riders



mechanics, not engineers 

oh agree.... English not my mothertongue

I think if a rider wants 3 mechanics per bike in a class where the rule states that you can have only one bike for costreason it it is time too realize that he's in the wrong championship. If the riders deserved it they should made them wanted by MotoGP teamowners. What's their expectation to the team when they go respectively IDM of BSB next year? Where is my private plane? 

Somehow people seem to think Hayden deserves some kind of special treatment because... well, he's American. How convenient.

He's had a good carreer, lucked into a world championship and had a few other good results. If anything, it's his teammate that deserves a lot more.

Oh yeah, totally because he's American. Obviously. I think he should just go ahead and retire, really...I mean, it's just the glue factory from here, isn't it? Who does he think he is, expecting Honda to provide a competitive bike? 

Btw, I was just looking back at an old article in which you commented (I'm paraphrasing) that when MotoGP started regulating aerodynamics, it was as good as dead. Care to provide a timeline on that one, smart guy?

The points accumulation method is the same for everyone on the grid.
Accumulating the most points over the season equals world champion.
Luck does not figure into this equation.

more and more it seems honda have become an outstanding automobile company that has a quirky motorcycle division and the nm4. in the beginning, honda were once an outstanding motorcycle company that had a quirky automobile division and the cvcc.

I think you are too harsh here.  Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and BMW have a name to hold as a mass producer of bikes that are fast, impressive and rideable in every circumstances, at the lowest possible costs. A good roadbike designed for everyone including people that do not have top of the bill riding skills and tend to have a big ego combined with serious overweight is not an ideal startingpoint as a racebike. The Suzuki comes with a feature that when stalling while launching with too less throttle, the bike's elektronics helps you out  Not a feature designed with WK Superbike riders in mind :-)

Is a bike that is one second less fast on a track then other bikes a quirky delivery of the manufacturer? There is more in the world then racing! I also  think the Ten Kate build bike has little to do with the stock version, except base lay-out and some restrictions by the rule. 

Niche parties as Kawasaki, MV Agusta, Ducati and require less smooth sailing to the large public

Kawasaki: bad midrange, first gear to the moon and back

Aprilia: too small for most

Ducati: Power completely over the top and and not usable for the street (even Ducati recommends a 959 for the street)

MV agusta (i don't know... never rode one)


As a 6'2 woman, the Ape is just cosy with nothing more than a higher screen. Support is the issue with this brand

As a 1.93m/6'4'' man, I could not agree more. All the RSV4 needs is a proper racing screen, the riding position is excellent. Only the KTM RC8R is more roomy. (I'd say even 2-metre riders will fit on that one, also thanks to the adjustable pegs and rear frame.)

haha I own a 2010 rsv4 myself and i love the bike. I am 190 cm though and however it feels ok for me, people are laughing at me since it looks like a giant just stole a children's bike. People told me!

Honda have always delivered a machine which is an all round package, sufficient power coupled with impeccable delivery and handling. The fact that it has taken them so long to deliver a new CBR1000RR, losing the best rider in their stable, next to MM93 in the process, hints that they can't understand what it takes to be competitive in WSBK?

JR65 used to pick up his Honda MX and trials irons, sent to us for delivery to him. I often asked him if anything new was coming. He once said that he was hoping that I would be able to tell him that there would be something competitive on the way. Next time I saw him, he said he had signed with Kawasaki. Unfulfilled promises of new machinery and a MotoGP seat had seen him off!

There is something wrong at Honda. Their road machine range is uninspiring, they ignore sectors which could be profitable, their accessory and clothing ranges are a lost opportunity and they do not listen to anyone. Their position at the top of the tree in Japan seems to give them the impression that they do not need to learn from anyone, now they are reaping the rewards of arrogance.  

I think honda just delivered an updated model since they had to. The old one was legacy even fresh in the shop. They know they had to deliver a new bike, but they alsno know the segment in dying, so do not expect a lot of sales. Prices is also quite high for that reason, in the same process they had to even kill one of their best children, the CBR 600 RR.

I think as ever Honda just build a new Fireblade and will not confused about the competativeness in racing. They just build a bike.. and accidentally it happens that one of the dealers in Holland also owns a racing team that is taking the bike to WSBK. HRC (which is to be seen a another party within Honda) sees in the racing team an opportunity too cut old talents softly out of MotoGP while remaining happy and without loss of face. The Japanese way. And it works since the Ten Kate team did an outstanding job in the past and build a great reputation. Hope to see them back at front soon.

that Nicky admitted he didn't really have many options/offers and the WSB Honda was probably the best.  Furthermore, it is not a prison and he is free to leave (particularly when his contract finishes).

Having said that Nicky's work ethic has always been one of the gold standards, as is his public respect for those that pay his bills and supply his equipment.  So when he does complain (in public) then it usually means there is something majorly wrong.  However, it doesn't necessarily mean there is an easy fix.


I can't ever recall NH coming forth with such a direct criticism of his team or bike.  Even being defending MotoGP champion and being shackled with an utterly uncompetitive and miniscule Honda, or in the dreary late Ducati MGP days, never did he say anything even approaching this.  He must be very unhappy indeed. 

Red Bull do not want to be associated with poor performance, one would assume that both the team and honda will be getting a please explain.  This is a bit of a toe in the water for Red Bull, given they have not been a title sponsor since the days of Gary McCoy.  It would be a big loss to the sport if they packed up and left again.

That said, I tend to agree with the sentiment of some others in that brands K & D are simply over spending.  Electronics have made bike racing much more complicated and expensive, but you can't put the genie back in the bottle, or unlearn current knowledge.  Complicated problem.

I sure wish Nicky would have taken the rumored Ducati offer to move to WSBK 4 or so years ago if it was really on offer.  Two years on a crap Honda MotoGP bike followed by this mess is pretty sad to watch.

He could be partnered with Davies right now and have a shot every weekend!

Weird change is afoot. Liter bikes are now making so much power that they need electronics to be rideable at full tilt. This takes specialized skill to develop that the old wee garage lacks. The market for sport bikes is wonky now too.

Kawasaki is doing something right, but also tossing lots of resources at it. Ducati has an easier time working with a twin that is inherently more rideable with its wide flat torque curve. The DNA of their bike has lots of feel and feedback.

Give me a 750 4 cyl, 875 triple or 1000cc twin with zero electronics and fewer pounds thanks. Ick!

but I don't know if his uncompromising brand allegiance would allow it. I think at this point, NH has been building for his future after moto competition, and Honda is the chosen brand.

as far as the spectacle goes, it's hard to deny that they've worked.  The grid is full and strong, with even a brand new manufacturer keeping up to within two seconds per lap.  The CRT's are gone, SIX(!!) manufacturers are represented, and every bike on the grid is fully legit.

It's time Dorna took this same approach with WSBK.  When you can change the fork, shock, wheels, swingarm, brakes, airbox, subframe, engine internals, completely relocate a one-off tank, and install an electronics suite that the MotoGP teams could only dream of, at what point is it basically a CRT bike?

I'm not suggesting that WSBK should become a superstock competition, but some cost control would probably do for SBK what it did for MotoGP: tighten the field and make it more competitive.