Hayden Has Tire Troubles

Henny Ray Abrams | July 19, 2008

MONTEREY, CA, JULY 18: Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden finished a deceptive second fastest at the end of Friday’s combined practice sessions. Deceptive because he was having serious problems with his rear Michelin and put in only one truly fast lap, and that at the end of Friday afternoon’s session. Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner finished the day with a best lap of 1:21.826 minutes, a new lap record. Hayden’s best of 1:22.634 mins. came at the end of a string of 14 laps that finished with the checkered flag. Stoner’s run, done on Bridgestone tires, was mostly in the low 22’s with a few 21’s. Hayden was mostly in the 22’s, with one lap in the 21’s. The problem was the rear tire. Nothing Hayden did could generate heat in his rear Michelin and he was clearly frustrated, as were other Michelin riders. The French company had its worst race of 2007 on the freshly re-paved Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and this year is shaping up to be nearly as bad. “I’d say a little bit deceiving to be honest with you guys, but I was able to string a few laps together,” Hayden said of his practice position. “The main thing is to get the bike set up around the tires.” But when pressed on the depth of the tire troubles, Hayden said, “I really, I don’t want to talk about it, to be honest with you.” Hayden’s dirt track style has often generated too much heat in the rear tire. But this weekend the tire isn’t heating up at all. What he’s hoping for is a breakthrough on bike set-up-suspension or wheelbase-to get the Honda RC212V to leverage the tire and get heat in it. He won’t get much help from the weather. It’s expected to stay in the mid to high-60’s. Anticipating a return of the problems of last year, Hayden wanted to choose a softer range when he picked his allocation of 40 tires, 22 rears and 18 fronts, on Thursday morning. But he was told Michelin had nothing softer. Hayden also believes that, given that this was the low point of their 2007 season, Michelin should have made an effort to test at the Monterey circuit. What makes it especially painful is the support Hayden gets at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where he won the first two Red Bull U.S. GP’s. “Anything can happen in racing,” he said. “We can make some changes. Like you say, the support I get here. That’s another thing that makes it hard. Even the last two seasons I’ve had, these fans here are just treating me so good. It’s awesome. I love it.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.