Hayden Struggles to Thirteenth

Henny Ray Abrams | July 13, 2008

HOHENSTEIN, ERNSTTHAL, GERMANY, JULY 13: Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden couldn’t find anything good to say about Sunday’s 13th place finish in the rain-soaked German Grand Prix, so he said very little. Coming off the heartbreak of the Dutch TT, where he ran out of gas while securely third within sight of the checkered flag, Hayden fully expected better in Germany, a left-handed track that appeals to his dirt tracker side. But he didn’t get it. Instead he suffered through one of his worst races of the year on a motorcycle he called “unrideable.” From the very start Hayden knew he was in trouble. He finished the first lap in last place with a rear tire that didn’t work. And that’s where he was when he pitted on the end of the eighth lap. The team quickly changed tires and sent him back out, but by then he was a lap down and the damage was done. With only 17 starters on the grid, and riders falling all over the track, Hayden soldiered on to a 13th place finish and three championship points. “It turned out to be an absolute disaster really,” an obviously disconsolate Hayden said in the Honda media bus an hour after the race. “Obviously, what we had in those conditions, didn’t work at all, not even a little bit. It was absolutely unrideable. We came in, had to make a change and stay out of the way. Couldn’t even ride it it was so bad. So I mean I don’t really want to go into everything, because nobody’ll look good. So just try to learn from this and put it behind us and go on. That’s about it. We could go into it, but it’s going to come out bad.” Hayden elaborated, but only slightly. His rear Michelin was “way too hard” on both sides of the multi-compound tire. He’d been told he’d used the tire before, but this one was slightly different. The compound was so hard that “it wouldn’t even let the electronics work. There was not enough grip to even…it was just sideways. It wasn’t about traction control or anything else. I don’t know. They’re checking.” The team fitted a softer tire and he was immediately faster, turning his fastest lap of the race to that point. But he was a lap down and getting in the way of other riders. The disappointment comes in advance of what should be his favorite race of the year, the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Hayden was hoping to head to Monterey with some momentum and turn around a less than satisfying season. But first came the debacle in Assen; now this. It also comes at a time when there are intense rumors about his future. Many believe it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll leave Honda to join Ducati, though he said more than once over the course of the weekend that nothing’s been decided. “Sure, I mean I don’t know where I’m going to be, but I’m certainly talking to a few teams,” he’d said on Saturday afternoon. “But as far as people thinking I got a deal done, this or that, I certainly have nothing signed. No contract, this or that. I’m talking to a few people, but definitely I need to sit down after this weekend. It’s getting close.”

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.