“You dream of showing up and getting a surprise and the bike is way better than you expected and way closer,” said Nicky Hayden of his first impressions of Honda's new CBR1000RR SP2 at Jerez. “It's been a long time since I've had that happen so I was prepared for a first day test like this.”
Hayden and team-mate Stefan Bradl stressed how early into the development process the Ten Kate team is with Honda's new Superbike at the end of Tuesday, as they spent much of the first day of testing in Andalusia ironing out niggling teething problems.
The Dutch squad only received the new machines two weeks ago, and understandably, both riders were using some old parts due to not every component on the new bike being ready. The final version of the fully-tuned engine, for example, won't be ready until Aragon at the earliest, said Bradl.
Still, while not fully recovered from a knee injury sustained while training in November, Hayden ended Tuesday afternoon ninth fastest, 1.6s off the pace set by Jonthan Rea. Bradl was three places and 0.35s back of his team-mate.
“I pretty much matched the same lap time I did here at the race with race tyres so it's a starting point,” said Hayden. “Of course, I'd have loved to be doing 1m 40s but we didn't expect that. It just don't happen in racing, so.
“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 don't want to sound like a complainer but the team has had the bikes two weeks so you can only do so much in two weeks as an independent team.
“We chipped away at it and took a couple of chunks here and there. Also, my condition, I'm not 100 percent. I wasn't able to maybe go at my maximum. Yeah, the gap looks really bad but we have to try and stay calm and realise 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.”
Comparing the new model to his 2016 machine, Hayden added, “Well the ride position is the same. A lot of the parts just aren't ready yet. We're actually using parts from last year; seat, tank, handlebar, footpeg… So the ride position is similar.
“I was getting quite a lot of drag on the arms. This is not really a bike where you tuck in anyway. Even on the back straight you're kind of fighting it. But I was feeling a lot on the arms.”
Bradl echoed Hayden's sentiments, and explained that he is still some way from finding a working base set-up for the bike.
“It's a new bike and there is a lot of work [to do]. That is the summary of today. You know, the bike arrived two weeks ago and the guys made an incredible job here in that situation.
“We got some laps and got the first impression, which was good. But here and there we were facing some problems. We are not on the pace I would say. We're trying to bring the things together to improve. Some things with the electronics for example went wrong.
“We made a lot of runs, in-out, in-out, and we lost a lot of time. I'm looking forward to tomorrow to get some more productive track time, and to work on the chassis and the balance, and going more in detail with the electronics. We don't even have a base. That's what I'm trying to say.
“This is the first spec engine. There is a lot more to come I hope. [There are] Small things that, for example, shifting-wise, with the electronics setting at the moment isn't on the top.
“We've got a lot of problems also with wheelie control. There are a lot of things that are not finding each other well. You need to point out every single thing to get it to work. The wheelie control is acting aggressive.
“Automatically you have a love of movements on the bike. One thing comes to another. Overall the first day is OK but still a lot of work in front of us, which we knew. It's not unexpected.
“We have some good guys working in the team. But we also know there is a lot of work in front of us. 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 with that. The guys need to go back to the workshop, summarise everything and get back to work there. Then we can make the next step. I hope that for Aragon race we can expect something more.”