It is no secret that the Honda are struggling in World Superbikes, however, Stefan Bradl – the team’s sole rider after the tragic passing of teammate Nicky Hayden – has got bundles of talent and on a good bike with the right team, he’s a WSBK race winner all day long. Come next year, I have a feeling that the German could be a bit of a threat.
It sounds ridiculous that I am mentioning the 2018 WSBK season after just reaching the half way distance this year but for Stefan Bradl, the remainder of this campaign will be more of a huge test session on the new Honda Fireblade.
Having received the bike late this season, the Red Bull Honda Ten Kate Team have been slashed of testing time and the results have highlighted that. Stefan Bradl’s 6th place in Assen is the team’s best result and they are slowly but surely making progress, with throttle connection being a main target, although a gearbox solution for WSBK is still looming a large issue.
Stefan Bradl is one of the top riders in World Superbikes. Having been unceremoniously tossed out of the Grand Prix circus last year, following a tricky time at Aprilia, he found himself in WSBK on what was supposed to be a championship contending bike. Bradl’s speed is most certainly there and his resilience is too, riding in honour of fallen hero Hayden at Donington Park.
Bradl is also the only German on the grid, following Markus Reiterberger’s departure due to injuries sustained over a year ago. The former Moto2 World Champion has actually been rather steady in WSBK. Every race he has finished has been in the points, which gains not only track time for him as a WSBK rookie but valuable data which will be used to improve the Fireblade. He has only retired from two races, at circuits that he has never rode a 1000cc bike at in his life.
The next circuit for the German to visit is Misano, where the team recently held a test to try and make further gains with the Honda. Bradl also knows the circuit reasonably well too, having raced there in his Grand Prix years, with a 2nd in Moto2 in 2011 and a top class best of 5th.
There is no doubting Bradl’s pace. It will just take some more time to be shown. Likewise for the Honda, development and testing is the most valuable asset to the outfit at the moment. I’m predicting a Honda podium by the end of the season; where that will be, I’m not so sure. But with a determined Bradl and a hardworking team around him, I expect some breakthroughs very shortly.
Image courtesy of Gareth Davies from Full Factory Photography