Nicky Hayden says due to the late arrival of the new Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR SP2 his Red Bull Honda squad expects a difficult debut for the new model in Australia and Thailand before progressing with updates.
The 2006 MotoGP world champion is gearing up for the 2017 World Superbike championship with his new-look Red Bull Honda squad after an eye-catching team launch in Salzburg.
Hayden claimed Honda's sole victory in 2016 with the previous Fireblade model and has relished the arrival of the new bike despite initial set-up issues on power delivery and edge grip.
Having had time to reflect on the development plan plotted by the Ten Kate Racing-run squad, the American is ready for the challenge but expects a couple of tough opening rounds as the team gets up to speed.
“We are at the very beginning still,” Hayden said at the team launch. “It is true the team has only really had two weeks with the bike so there is a lot of things on the bike from last year like the tank.
“The new fuel tank is not ready yet and other parts like the swingarm is still basically last year's version. It is early stages and will come in time.
“The first two rounds will be a bit tricky because the bikes leave for Australia this week and once they go over there they are shipped straight to Thailand afterwards. We have the engine number limit so once they seal the engines it can't change.
“We need the two days of testing at Phillip Island and hoping for really good weather so we can make a big step. Phillip Island luckily for us is a lot more about the chassis and the handling rather than the engine so hopefully we can mask some of our problems.”
Hayden expects a raft of Honda updates to be ready by the third round and the start of the European stretch of the season in Aragon (31st March-2nd April). For 2017 Hayden is joined by fellow ex-MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl at the Red Bull Honda squad in World Superbikes.