Honda World Superbike rider Nicky Hayden hopes the arrival of new riders and more manufacturers upping their game will give the series more variety in 2017.
For the past two years, the championship has been dominated by British riders Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes, who between them have won 48 out of a possible 52 races.
Outside of the trio, Leon Haslam has won twice, and the only non-British winners have been Jordi Torres in 2015 and former MotoGP champion Hayden in 2016.
The 2017 WSBK season sees such former stars as Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri returning to the grid, while MotoGP convert Stefan Bradl also joins the field as Hayden’s Honda teammate.
Combined with manufacturers such as Honda, Yamaha and Aprilia attempting to upset the status quo of Kawasaki and Ducati, Hayden is hopeful the upcoming season will see greater variety.
“This year some more manufacturers have stepped up so let’s hope that we can see some new winners this year,” said the Kentucky-born rider.
“Last year, the same few guys were winning every week, I think that’s not nice for the fans. Give them credit, they’ve done a good job but let’s hope there can be some more faces at the front and some better racing.
“No doubt the championship will be tougher this year, but that we look forward to. I am excited about the thought of that, that’s why you come to world championships because you want the best riders.”
Pre-season tests “more of a shakedown”
But, due to a lack of preparation time, Hayden said the Ten Kate team could barely get the bike ready for the pre-season tests at Jerez and Portimao, where the American admitted he was frustrated.
“The team had very little time to prepare the bike, I mean they really had just received them two weeks prior [to the Jerez test] from Japan,” he explained.
“They really had to strip them down and turn them into race bikes and these tests were really just more of a shakedown.”
While Hayden was sixth at Jerez, seven tenths off the benchmark time, the American was 1.6s adrift in the subsequent Portimao test.
“The positive thing was that other than the first morning we had no problems,” he added. “Obviously the bike ran good all the time and now we just need to start fine-tuning them and get them set up for racing.
“When you sit on it it’s very similar [to the old bike], the main difference we improved on is we have more torque coming up the corners.
“Realistically, after Portimao we were two seconds off the pace, that’s not a good feeling and that’s not a good situation for the team, because everybody was scratching their heads.”
Testing continues at Phillip Island this week ahead of the first round of the season on 24-26 February.
Additional reporting by Giacomo Rauli