Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in their search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team's struggles will continue
Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again.
Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.
“We haven’t improved enough this year and at the Portimao test before Assen we were doing similar times to January,” said a clearly disappointed Hayden. “I think that was big blow to all of us and, I’m not going to lie, we went there expecting to see some improvement. We had a new engine upgrade and it was a smoother power delivery but it was too smooth and it wasn't a step forward. It's possible that there was some stuff wrong with that engine and once they got it back to the workshop they might have found something.
“That test was just a big blow for us and I wasn't happy at all because we need to find some power. We had some other problems at that test and maybe that could can be a little wakeup call for the team and help all of us realize what’s going on. It’s not working and we need to take a different path. We can’t use a lack of time with the bike as an excuse any longer because we've now had eight races and a lot of testing. With this much data on the bike and no real significant gain in lap time it's clear that there is a problem.”
That problem initially centered on the electronics of the bike and issues with throttle connection and engine braking. At the Portimao test those issues reared their head again and while the team had hoped to use the new specification at Assen Hayden didn't want risk adding another engine to the allocation that could cause issues.
“I have a problem adding the new engine because I’ve already used a lot of engines this year because I had a problem with one. To bring another engine into the circulation is tough at this point in the season because I don’t want to be starting from the pit road later in the year because of allocation issues.”
There are plenty of other issues to be addressed as well with Hayden's Friday woes adding to his feeling that the team should bring in some additional resources.
“I was hoping with the new big sponsor for this year we would see more resources. I know we are just a satellite team but maybe we can add one or two people to the team - an engineer and a third mechanic for each rider. On Friday morning I had a water leak and it took time to fix it. Then I missed the whole second session with another problem. We have so many problems. Who expects that you have to screw down the clutch cover or drain water during practice? If everything goes smoothly, two mechanics are enough. In our situation though we could benefit from one extra.”
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