26 September 2016
MotoGP Aragon: Hayden: I wish I could qualify and race again!
“I was racing with guys that have been riding these bikes on these tyres all year, that aren't bad riders. I can't be too disappointed I guess.” – Nicky Hayden
Nicky Hayden has admitted he underestimated the task of adjusting to Michelin's tyres at the Grand Prix of Aragon, but felt that his progress through the weekend was such that he was left longing to qualify and race again.
While standing in for the injured Jack Miller, the 2006 world champion finished 15th to ensure he has now scored MotoGP points in 14 consecutive seasons.
Sunday was, Hayden said, the most comfortable he felt on Honda's RC213V all weekend, after he finally began to understand Michelin's 17-inch front before qualifying.
Although he had hoped to finish higher up the order, the self-critical Hayden was moderately content to fight with names he had struggled to match when competing aboard the uncompetitive 'Open' Honda in 2015.
“The race was the best session I had of the weekend,” said Hayden, one of only 16 men to win races in both the MotoGP/500cc class and World Superbike championship.
“I just started too far behind on Friday to get the feeling of the tyres and the bike. Actually, for the race we found a good direction last night. The bike felt better this morning.
“For the race we didn't touch anything. I got in there, got a good start and was able to race with some guys. It wasn't amazing, but I was with [Danilo] Petrucci, [Yonny] Hernandez and the bike was working pretty good. That little group in front of me with [Michele] Pirro, I was hoping to come out on top of that group but it went back and forth with [Hector] Barbera. I lost some time.
“In the end I got one point. Of course I had hoped to do something better but I guess I underestimated how hard it was going to be to get up to speed with these tyres, particularly the front. I didn't feel good with them.
“They felt hard so I went slow with them and made the problem even worse. You need to be more confident. The faster you can go the better they work. I didn't really get that feeling I would say until yesterday afternoon.
“It's a little frustrating but I knew coming in that it could be like that. I chose to try and do it anyway. In the end it wasn't a disaster. I got to race with guys and have a pretty fun battle.”
From posting a best time of 1m 51.873s in Friday morning's first session, Hayden lowered his personal best by 2.4s in qualifying just over a day later, a fine gauge of progress. It was the variation in track temperature from morning to afternoon, Hayden feels, coupled with a spill in FP3, that ultimately lost him valuable time.
“The cold morning sessions didn't help me. On Friday and Saturday morning, with the crash, I just got too far behind. It was Saturday afternoon when I started to feel it. I was racing guys who were two seconds a lap faster than me on Friday afternoon. I wish it was like World Superbike so I could go and race again. I wish I could qualify and race again but I knew what I signed up for.
“Also, the level. I was racing in a pretty good pack. At one point I looked up and thought twelfth was a real possibility. I closed that gap down a little bit and then lost a bit of time with Barbera.
“The race at times was fun. Truthfully, I was able to pass. Hernandez was a guy last year that I couldn't even see. I was in a good group. It's a shame it was at the back but it was racing. With guys that have been riding these bikes all year, on tyres they've been riding all year, that aren't bad riders. I can't be too disappointed I guess.”
The three-time premier class race winner had the chance to work with Miller's crew chief Cristian Gabarrini though the three days.
The Italian, who acted as crew chief to Casey Stoner in the Australian's two championship winning years (2007, 2011) was able to guide Hayden through the machine's electronics, leading the American to comment “it was a pleasure to work with him.
“Really good. I mean, the whole team here. They all speak English, which helps. I'd say it was a pleasure to work with Cristian. He's a guy that's won world championships with two different teams and two different bikes. Not many crew chiefs can say that. I hope I learnt a little something working with him and the other guys.
“He helped me a lot [with electronics]. He knows this bike for sure. I would have had a tougher job without him. I thought we actually worked quite well together. It was a pleasure to work with him. Really good."
Hayden will return to World Superbike duties this weekend at Magny-Cours.
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