Tires Slowing Hayden

Henny Ray Abrams | July 19, 2008

MONTEREY, CA, JULY 19: Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden qualified on the front row for the second time this year, but he wasn’t jumping for joy. The Michelin qualifiers were fine, but the race tires weren’t. It was so bad that Hayden went to the extreme step of using an intermediate tire for half of the morning practice, held as the fog cleared on a cool morning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The Michelin riders made the grim discovery on Friday that their tires were simply too hard for the year-old Laguna Seca surface. Hayden was especially critical, not only in public but in private as well. He admitted he had words with Michelin tire boss Jean-Philippe Weber. “They admitted they got it wrong,” Hayden said. “It was pretty, pretty hot yesterday, to be honest with you in the box. I think everybody was quite frustrated, especially my home race. “Today I feel more confident than yesterday. It was taking us five laps to get heat in the tires. And we really changed a lot. I didn’t realize. Yesterday, one thing they told me is there something we can do to the bike to get more heat in the tires? And I was like, oh my god, I’ve never heard this in my life. Normally they’re the opposite. Tell him to quit spinning, he’s going to have to do something or he won’t finish. And we got the bike working better and I’m more confident now. “But yesterday, I mean, I really didn’t know you know, it’s top ten. And you come here, 60,000 people come here to see an American get a result and it was hard to accept. Me and Jean-Philippe (Weber), we definitely went at it a little bit in the box, but last night we talked it over and smoothed things out because we’ve got to work together.” Asked if he had a race tire that would last the 32 laps, he said, “I’m not really sure, to be honest with you. The tire I think I might race I only have two of. So I’ve only really used it one time and haven’t really been able to set the bike with it.” Hayden said that it had been “quite difficult for Michelin riders this weekend on allocations.” On the Thursday of race weekends, the riders have to choose their race tires, 18 fronts, 22 rears. “We probably didn’t put the right stuff in there. There was a little bit of disagreement what to put in the allocation anyway.” The bigger issue is the tires Michelin brought and who made the decision about what went in the crates, which were sent 10 days earlier. The preferred front tire of Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards and Hayden wasn’t available in Monterey. The rear tires need to reach about 135 Celsius to work and some of the Michelins couldn’t break 120 Celsius. “Also in the morning, we didn’t expect the conditions to be so cold. Even though the forecast showed it was cold. This morning I used an intermediate tire of the first 30 minutes this morning, because I didn’t have a slick that was safe enough to even go out with. I can honestly say it’s the first time I ever did that in my life in dry track, knowingly, went out with an intermediate. But sometimes you just got to do what you got to do.” The two-time winner of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix said it was “certainly nice to be the front row here. It’s so hard to pass around this track and I think everybody, you could see guys was willing to pay a big price today in qualifying to get a good grid position. “Our qualifying tires worked really well. we improved the bike a little bit this afternoon. So really happy to be on the front row actually. But the big gap to Casey’s (Stoner) a little demoralizing right now. Just taking everybody to school. It’s really that simple. So we’ve got a lot of work to do to try to get up there. But, you know, 32 laps around here is a long time, it’s a long race, a lot of stuff can happen. We’ll keep the bike more or less the same for the morning, try to improve a little bit. But, you know, try to get a good start, get in there, see what happens.”

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.