Hayden, Bradl continue WSBK Fireblade development
Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team’s home round at Assen approaches as development continues
The FIM Superbike World Championship is back in action this weekend at the TT Circuit Assen, the home track for the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team, with Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl continuing to work on bringing the new CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 up to a level where they can try and compete at the front of the pack amongst the dominant Kawasaki and Ducati runners in the WSBK series.
Round four of the 2017 season – the second on European soil – will be a special one for the Dutch squad, with Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl ready to battle around the 4.542km technical track on board their SP2 machines, but it hasn’t been an easy start to the season for the duo.
Last year, Hayden took the first podium of his World Superbike career at Assen, a third place in race one from tenth position on the grid. This is not the only fond memory of Assen for Nicky, who came out victorious in 2006 after a thrilling finale in that year’s MotoGP race and was third at the chequered flag the following season.
For the 2017 season Hayden has posted a tenth place finish at Round 1 in Aragon, with a DNF result in Race 2. Round 2 in Thailand was an improvement with a ninth in race one and eight in race two, however the Australian WSBK round saw an 11th result followed by another DNF.
Hayden does hold the points advantage of the duo, despite the two DNF results so far, with 27 championship points to his name, leaving him 11th in the standings.
“I look forward to racing at Assen. It’s a track with a lot of history and it’s the home circuit for the team so, after the difficulties we experienced in Aragón almost a month ago, we’ll try to have a bit more fun here. It’s a very fast and flowing track and a lot comes down to the last chicane, where a lot of races are decided. I can’t wait to get on track and see where we’re at. As usual at this time of the year, the weather plays a key role in the weekend: looking at the forecast it seems like it’ll be very variable, so we have to take advantage of every condition and be ready for anything. Let’s see what we can do: hopefully we’ll be able to secure some results we can be happy about.”
Stefan Bradl has had a fair amount of success in qualifying at the Dutch venue, with one pole position in Moto2 and three front-row starts (two in MotoGP and one in 125cc). The German’s best race result so far at Assen, however, is a pair of sixth places, one in 2009 (125cc) and the other in 2013 (MotoGP on a Honda).
Bradl has shown greater consistency for the 2017 season, finishing all six races at the first three rounds of the championship, with his best result so far a ninth place in race 1 at Aragon. This was followed up by a 12th in race 2. Round 2 in Thailand saw 10th and 13th results, while the Australian WSBK round saw two 15th place finishes.
This leaves Bradl with 19 championship points to his name, a position behind Hayden in 12th overall, heading to Assen.
“I’m looking forward to Assen. It’s going to be an important race not only for the team, but also for us riders because it’s a new round and our goal is to do better than the last one. It’s good to get back on the bike; I hope the weather is not going to be too unkind to us, in order to make the most of our time on track and see how the bike performs at this track, which is quite different to the ones we have already raced on this year. Hopefully, we can make a step forward so we’ll see how it goes”
With a brand new machine from Honda in the form of the updated CBR1000RR Fireblade, including the SP2 model being raced in WSBK, it’s unsurprising that there’ll be a period of development and adjustment, with the duo no doubt aiming to take advantage of the team’s home-ground advantage.
The schedule for the Assen round will follow the traditional European timetable, with the two races set to get underway at 1pm CEST (GMT +2) on Saturday and Sunday.
“We are ready for Assen, a track where we’ve done well in the past and that hopefully will be kind to us even this time around. We did some testing between Aragón and here and we are taking to Assen some of the updates we tried. It looks like the weather is going to be a factor this weekend but that will not be a surprise. In any case, our hope is that it’ll be a dry weekend. I reckon a top-six result is within our range with both Nicky and Stefan, so we’ll do our best to make that happen.”
2017 WorldSBK Championship points standings after three rounds
- Rea 145
- Davies 95
- Sykes 91
- Melandri 81
- Lowes 65
- Van der Mark 49
- Torres 48
- Fores 44
- Camier 38
- Laverty 30