Tommy Hayden Flies at Fontana

Henny Ray Abrams | February 2, 2009

FONTANA, CA, FEB 2: Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden had a good first ride on the 2009 Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 in American Superbike spec. Hayden and teammates Mat Mladin and Blake Young to a headstart on the all-teams test that begins tomorrow at Auto Club Speedway and the Kentuckian put in a solid day’s work. Hayden turned in 75 laps with a hand-timed best of 1:24.8 mins., roughly the same as the 1:24.836 he ran during last year’s Sunday Superbike race. “That last second we get’s pretty expensive with the full works bikes,” Hayden said. The difference between his 2008 and 2009 machines are vast. The biggest difference is the base machine itself. The slimmed down 2009 Suzuki GSX-R1000 is all new and, for Hayden, at least, a vast improvement. The bike fits him better, even if it isn’t the beast his 2008 bike was. “Compared to last year it’s just not quite the animal that bike was,” he said. “It’s just a little softer, kinda all around. The other bike was really stiff, really rigid, really harsh. This bike’s a little softer. Just a little tamed down overall, everywhere. It’s not really the animal the other bike was. But, saying that, it’s still pretty fast and still a handful. It’s just toned down a notch.” Hayden couldn’t say where the softness came from, whether it was the result of the lower engine spec, unleaded fuel, or less electronics. “It’s really difficult for me, because the bike’s so much different,” he said. “I mean, just everything is so much different on the model itself. Just the riding position, our electronics at the moment. There’s very little the same; the brand of tires and brand of motorcycles, but everything else is different. It’s hard to really pinpoint what’s exactly different and where exactly I’m getting certain feelings from. But I do like the bike. It’s been fun to ride today. It fits me better than the old bike. The new model, more than anything, is a little smaller, a little more compact like all the bikes have been heading for years. I’m happy about that. We had a pretty positive first day, I think.” Hayden said he didn’t “love the old bike as much as Mat (Mladin) and Ben (Spies) did. I was still getting used to it and it was still not mine, exactly, so to speak. So it’s hard to say. At this point, I think I’m going to be more comfortable on this bike. More, just the ergonomics part of it. I never really was 100% comfortable on the old bike. I got a lot more comfortable last year and made some progress, but never was it just like, wow, I love that thing. It did a lot of stuff good and it was a bad machine. It won, however many races it won, 46 in a row. It was more me, it was really tough for me to get used to it. “Whereas this just straight away felt a lot more natural to me. So it’s hard to say. This is a new model and some other people got new models. Technology’s hard to outrun, even…I don’t care how much works stuff you have, it’s eventually trickling down to the production stuff. Superstocks usually aren’t too far behind us. So, hard to say. I don’t think there’s going to be a gigantic difference. I think we’ve got a competitive bike.” How competitive remains to be seen. The team still has major decisions to make on a number of components, including suspension. Hayden used “a little bit of everything. Some hybrid stuff, an Ohlins shock at one time. We have a lot of stuff to test as far as that goes. We have several different combinations.” He also tried a Showa shock and Showa fork kit and will try an Ohlins fork kit on Tuesday. “We worked more on the rear today.” The electronics haven’t been touched, he said, adding that he wasn’t even sure which brand the team was running. “I never asked the question,” he said, adding he didn’t use the traction control. “I don’t even know if it has it. Actually, I never asked. I don’t hardly use any of it.” Hayden will be back on track Tuesday morning, when the Yosh squad will be joined by Yamaha, Graves Motorsports Yamaha, Corona Honda, Erion Honda, Pegram Ducati, and Attack Kawasaki for the only all-teams test prior to next month’s Daytona season-opener.

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.