WSB: Hayden fears for 2017 title
Former Motogp world champ fears late arrival of Fireblade has already hit his title hopes
Nicky Hayden’s World Superbike title bid for 2017 is already in trouble with no sign of his new Fireblade.
The 2006 Motogp champion knew 2016 would be a learning year, but was seriously hoping to take the fight to the Kawasaki and Ducati teams when the flag drops on the 2017 season.
The American and new Ten Kate team-mate Stefan Bradl were left to test the older model at Aragon last month, before moving on to Jerez where Hayden sat out proceedings after sustaining a knee injury while training. Speaking exclusively to MCN, he was unable to hide his disappointment at the new bike not yet being available: “If I told you it wouldn’t have been nice to have the bike for these tests, I’d be lying to you, but the reality is… it isn’t ready for us.
“For sure, it’s a concern as our championship starts in February. I was hoping we’d be able to get out on it before the end of the year to give the team a chance to see the data and any problems we might encounter before working through it over Christmas. That wasn’t possible and it is what it is.
“The boys at the front aren’t going to wait on us so we’ll have to see – and until we ride the new bike we won’t actually know how much of an improvement it will be.
“The biggest thing we struggled with this year was accelerating out of slow corners and especially uphill, more horsepower is something we really need but that’s not the only thing. We’re fighting against full factory teams. Jonathan, Tom and Chaz are excellent riders doing a great job, but hopefully we can get a bit more support from Honda to help bring us closer.
“The team worked hard to get us to where we were at with the old bike. And I have every faith in them being able to do this with the new bike too. They are getting the bike late and have to turn it into a race bike, it’s not going to just turn up from Japan ready-made, Ten Kate do it all themselves so I hope they aren’t expecting too much time off at Christmas!”
While recognising how hard it is to fight at the front in WSB, Hayden has no regrets about making the switch from Motogp after the 2015 season, but does seem to wish he’d taken up Ducati’s offer of a WSB switch at the end of 2013.
“Of course I had doubts coming to WSB,” he explained. “I had to ask myself, at 35 is it time to let it go? When I looked at myself in the mirror, I still believed I could do it and had enough left in the tank to know it wasn’t time to pack it in. I still had the desire to race, I’m happy with the move to superbike. Realistically, I should have probably come a year or two earlier and skipped the open class experiment but I can’t look back now.”
‘ For sure, it’s a concern as our championship starts in February’
Hayden at the French round where he had a DNF and a ninth