As his World Superbike debut approaches, Nicky Hayden is 'excited' to see how he and Ten Kate Honda's CBR1000 RR measures up against the rest of the field over race distance at Phillip Island.
The rider from Owensboro, Kentucky completed only his third and fourth days of testing in 2016 at a two-day outing in Australia, where he ended Tuesday seventh overall, with his best time clocking in at 0.4s slower than the fastest lap of the test.
On Monday Hayden complained of excessive movement from the bike but a stiffening of the chassis and electronics adjustments saw Hayden lap competitively in the mid 1m 31s on used tyres.
A race run was the former MotoGP champion's principle aim for the afternoon, but the increased temperatures and gusts of warm wind held him back as he acclimatised to the workings of the Pirelli tyres in such conditions.
“You know the day started quite good,” began Hayden, speaking at the track at which he secured his first MotoGP podium, back in 2003. “This morning I improved my lap time with used tyres. We changed some stuff on the bike and stiffened it up a bit to help me get more comfortable and get rid of some of the moving. I made a few adjustments that felt good. It wasn't too bad.
“In the afternoon I struggled a lot in the hot conditions. I tried to make a long run but it was so hot. It was the first time I've used the Pirellis in really hot conditions. It's a very hard tyre to begin with. I've got some learning to do to understand the bike and the tyres in those conditions.
“Overall it wasn't an amazing two days of testing. I know it was the same for everybody but there was a lot of rain yesterday and today a lot of red flags that just messed up the rhythm. You know, you go out to test something. Then you have to go in, you go out and you kind of lose the feelings.
“These two-hour sessions go quick and put a lot of stress on the team. They all did a good job. Hopefully we can take these next two days, study the data and for me, to be a little bit better for Friday. Some more testing would be nice but ready or not now we go racing. These two days have been very helpful though.”
With Michael van der Mark's eye-catching performances on his class debut at Phillip Island in 2015 proof that the somewhat outdated CBR1000RR functions well around the succession of third and fourth gear curves, Hayden feels his package 'seems competitive' in Australia.
“We still have some stuff that we would have liked to be a bit more clear on,” continued 34-year old Hayden. “I haven't really looked at the split times. Here, at this track, our bike works well. I was talking to Michael, he was quite fast here last year. There are a few guys quicker than us for sure but we seem competitive. Now we just need to get out there and see how we stack up in race conditions. I'm excited to go racing.”
Speaking of the different characteristics of the Pirelli rubber in hot conditions, Hayden admitted he had problems finding consistency as he had to hang off the bike less.
“The grip for the spinning wasn't too bad. It was more about the amount of moving that I had to get used to, and the corner speed. To keep the bike turning and without the same amount of grip I couldn't lean as much to keep the bike turning.
“The problem was more that I couldn't keep consistent. There were a lot of crashes and a lot of waving yellow flags that didn't help but I wasn't as consistent as I should be. I did 18 laps, which is very close to race distance so I learned a few things.”