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Sepang II MotoGP Test: Nicky Hayden - Q&A

"If Ducati does go Open it could help us develop the software quicker... Also it could help us get more support from Honda" - Nicky Hayden.
On Wednesday evening at Sepang, sat down for a ten minute chat with 2006 MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden.

A title winner with Honda, Hayden then spent five seasons at Ducati before this year's move to the Drive M7 Aspar team in the newly formed Open class.

Hayden had finished the first Sepang test as the quickest of the Production Honda riders, but was 1.9s from Marc Marquez's factory RC213V and 1.5s from the top Open class machine of Aleix Espargaro (Forward Yamaha).

The American's main concern had been engine performance and Hayden began by giving an update on the RCV1000R's progress after the first day of this week's test, before covering topics such as the early years of the four-stroke era, Marc Marquez's dirt track injury and his thoughts on this year's championship…
It looked like things went a bit better today, tenth place, 1.379s from the top and a bit closer to Espargaro…

Nicky Hayden:
You know it has gone better. Definitely. We're a bit closer than we were at the last test. Obviously Marc not being here and setting the pace at the front means it is maybe not a true indication, but in general we are quicker than the last test. I think the dirty track today hurt us less than some Factory bikes.

But we're working away. I need to adjust to this bike and also the team. Not only did I spend five years on a Ducati but five years working with the same guys. I need some time to adjust to the team, build that chemistry and also the language is something we need to work on.
How do you see that 1.3s gap being divided in terms of engine, electronics, chassis…

Nicky Hayden:
I don't think chassis or suspension is any of it. Sure, we can maybe dial it in a little better. Electronics is a bit of it for sure, especially when the tyre goes off. But I would say engine is the biggest part still. Also just me making the difference - riding this bike better.
In the Open class you're up against Espargaro running leased factory-spec Yamaha engines. How do you feel about that?

Nicky Hayden:
Well it's in the rules! Of course the bike is not bad, but also Aleix is riding really good. People are quick to give credit to the bike, but it's not like that the bike is so much faster than anything. It's just equal to the Factory bikes.

That's good for all of us in the Open class. We don't want to just be the first Open bike. We want to be competitive with the Factory bikes. If we were finishing 30 seconds back, but the first Open bike, I wouldn't consider it a great result.

But Aleix is definitely riding really well. So give him some of the credit for sure. The team has done a good job to give him a competitive package but he's got to twist the throttle and he's clearly doing it.
You touched on the electronics, how is the progress with the Open software?

Nicky Hayden:
Compared to Valencia [November], the electronics are a lot better. We definitely improved a lot of the flat spots and holes in the powerband.

Today we had a little electrical glitch, we lost a little time in the morning, then all through the day we couldn't sort the last bit of corner entry. The electronics were doing something strange, giving it a little gas which was not good.

Sure the electronics aren't great when the tyre goes off. We need to sort that out. And the wheelie control at this track is not a big problem, especially with our bike and the amount of power we have.

We have wheelie control, but it is one wheelie control for the whole track. So we can't dial it in more for the first and second gear corners. We have to find a compromise for the whole track, which we can do here okay but it'll be tougher on the tighter, stop-and-go tracks where we have shorter gearing and wheelies are a bigger issue.
You spent a lot for years helping develop the Factory Ducati electronics with Magneti-Marelli. If Ducati's official team moves to the Open class there is speculation that at least some of their Factory software could then be transferred to the Open class ECU (also Magneti-Marelli). As the Open class software is shared, and you have a lot of past experience with the Ducati software, could that be good for you?

Nicky Hayden:
I'm used to those electronics, but it's a completely different bike now - engine, chassis. But in some regards, yeah, if Ducati does go Open it could help us develop the software quicker. Have more input. More data and work in a better way.

Also it could help us get more support from Honda. If they see Ducati using this [Open] software, and Yamaha is already using it basically with a Factory bike [at Forward].

If the MotoGP electronics do go to [all Open class rules in future] Honda is going to be behind, because at the moment they are using the [Open software] with a bike that is far from Factory. So if anything it might help Honda give us some more support. I hope!
Are you aware of anything in the pipeline from Honda?

Nicky Hayden:
At the moment no. I had hoped this test we would maybe have a few things but there is really nothing to test here. We do have two bikes, which is definitely a little better - at the last test we only had one - but the problem is we don't have enough parts for the second bike. We only have one set of bushings for the front clamps. So we can't make the bikes the same, so it's not really helping us. We really have a lot of work to do. We're definitely a bit behind.
Changing subject, you won your world championship during a time that many regard as the best of the four-stroke era in terms of on-track action. What does MotoGP need to do to get back to that kind of riding and racing? What was it about those bikes?

Nicky Hayden:
I liked that year too! I'd like to go back. For sure the 990s were something really different. You could steer with the rear at that time. The electronics were not so developed. You could slide and really smoke the tyres - and still go fast.

Now with the amount of electronics, and the style even, I mean you can still slide a little bit. You might be able to drift, but you don't see nobody smoking tyres anymore. That's a shame. For me and for the whole sport.
What's the most fun on a modern version of a MotoGP bike? What gives you the biggest kick?

Nicky Hayden:
I would say just hitting all your marks and really putting a lap together, because that's how you go fast on these bikes now. Especially a sequence of corners, like here with turns 10,11,12 - boom, boom, boom - I quite enjoy that because now with this bike we don't really have the power to slide too much.
As you mentioned, Marc Marquez is not here after being injured doing dirt track. Every time someone gets injured training on a motorcycle some people question why they do it. Can you ever imagine not being able to train in that way?

Nicky Hayden:
You never hear a rider or someone who has been there and really knows what it takes to go fast say you shouldn't do it. Of course it's easy for some fans to think but they don't know what it takes to go fast, the feeling you need and the muscles.

It'd be great if we could take MotoGP bikes out every day to train and practice on. But we can't. People don't say anything if a guy gets hurt in practice for a race, in FP2 or something. It's no different really.

It's just not feasible to practice all the time on MotoGP bikes so you try to simulate it someway, somehow. Not only to train your mind to concentrate and hit your points, but the feeling, the throttle control and also the muscles.

You can ride your bicycle as much as you want. But if you come here without being on some kind of motorcycle for three months, you'll have trouble walking the next day.
What are your preferred methods of training - dirt track and motocross?

Nicky Hayden:
I try to stay away from motocross because of the jumping. Sometimes I'll be at a track and maybe… But our personal tracks, at our home in Kentucky, we have no jumps. It doesn't really benefit me to do the jumps. If anything the jumps make it easier because I can recover my breathing on a jump - I'm not good enough to really scrub the jump [lay the bike on its side] and use energy that way.

So dirt track, but I don't do just flat. I do road race type stuff.
A proper track layout, with a dirt track bike?

Nicky Hayden:
Do you use low grip tyres?

Nicky Hayden:
It depends. I have two different bikes with different tyres. So dirt track tyres sometimes, but if there is too much rain and it's wet I use tyres with some 'knobbies'.
Finally Nicky, looking at the championship as a whole, is Marquez still the runaway favourite despite his injury - can Lorenzo, Rossi, Pedrosa catch him?

Nicky Hayden:
Well you never know in racing. We gotta line-up and that's what we like about it. But you gotta think Marquez is the favourite after what he did last year. If he can stay healthy.

If he can keep his speed from last year, but cut down on some of the crashes and stuff. But none of those were in the race. They were all in practice. If he can do that and stay healthy he's sure going to make it tough on the rest of us.

But I really think we're in for some good racing this year. You see the times here today. Who would have thought a day ago that Bautista would be fastest and a Ducati less than two tenths behind? Bautista at the last test was outside the top ten.

At the moment there are a lot of guys that are very competitive. It's not going to be too predictable, I hope.
Thanks Nicky.

Nicky Hayden:
Thank you.

Tagged as: hayden

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February 27, 2014 1:30 PM

Nicky is always a great interview. He doesn't complain. He just tells it like it is and gives credit when it's due like with Espargaro. I also like how he and other riders have not bee afraid to tell some of the fans that they are wrong and should not be telling the actual riders how to train when they have no clue what it takes.

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