They say you should never underestimate the fight in a dirt-tracker, but after Portimao the dirt-tracker isn’t underestimating the fight ahead of him. After four days on the new Honda Fireblade, Nicky Hayden cast a downbeat figure at times, but the American is digging deep.
Armed with his renowned work ethic, the Ten Kate rider will be leaving no stone unturned in finding a solution, but after a troubled opening test, it went from bad to worse for the Dutch team.
“The first day was not a good day for us,” admitted Hayden. “I really don’t know how to sugar coat it any better. We’re really struggling with edge grip, the bike pumping, and not being stable on the exit of the corners. We never found a direction to go in and nothing really helped the problem.”
“Some of the problems that we had in Jerez are here and maybe even more dramatic, but the edge grip is more of a problem here because in Jerez you can ride it around it a bit and pick the bike up, but here at Portimao so many corners link together. The bike starts sliding and steps out and you’re off-line for the next corner so the problem can keep exaggerating itself here.”
“The driveability of the bike and the power of the engine means that there’s a lot of holes in the power. We had a lot of spinning, bumping, and the bike moving underneath me. To be honest, it’s been a pretty frustrating couple of days but this isn’t the first time that I’ve had a frustrating test in my life and we’ll work on it.”
The one positive to take from the test was that Hayden managed to complete a full program of work, without feeling the effects of his December knee surgery.
The Kentucky Kid is still not at full fitness, but expects to be close to it for the season-opener at Phillip Island. At the moment though, he is unable to make any expectations for the coming season.
“I don’t know what to expect for Phillip Island, but the team will look at the data and try and improve the mapping to smooth the power out, and then we’ll see how it is. I won’t make any predictions yet, but I won’t be giving up either!”
Of note, the team brought with them some small engine upgrades to Portimao, but were continuing to run the bike with a lot of 2016 parts.
Photos: © 2016 Steve English – All Rights Reserved
This World Superbike story is made possible by our A&R Pro members. If you like reading WorldSBK stories on Asphalt & Rubber, you should consider supporting this content by signing up for A&R Pro.