TOOELE, UT, MAY 31: In his most difficult season as a professional racer Roger Lee Hayden has come to appreciate the little things.At his home World Superbike race at Miller Motorsports Park, that meant keeping the factory Kawasakis in sight, and nearly in check, and finishing closer to the winner than he had all season. Now, having lost out to the factory bikes on sheer horsepower, Hayden has a month off and hopes when he returns at Misano that the gap to the factory bikes will have closed, if only slightly.Hayden began the weekend by qualifying for Superpole for the first time ever. Unfamiliar with the soft Pirelli qualifying tires, the youngest of the racing Haydens didn’t get the most out of them and didn’t advance out of Superpole 1. He would start Monday’s two races in 20th place.Very early on the first lap of the first race, oily smoke began pouring out the back of Jakub Smrz’s Ducati. Hayden was several places behind him at the time and everyone from Smrz on back considered stopping. Many put their hands up. Smrz continued for several corners before pulling off, but by then those who were behind had lost ground that would be hard to make up.Hayden fell in with the Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes and got as high as 14th on the third of 21 laps. Then he dropped down to 15th, and 16th two laps later when he was passed by the second green factory Kawasaki of Chris Vermeulen. The rest of the race would be spent in pursuit of those two. When race leader Carlos Checa retired on the 19th of 21 laps, Hayden moved back into the points, but quite briefly. Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Jonny Rea, who’d crashed on the fourth lap, caught and passed Hayden. Then it was up to Hayden to catch Vermeulen, who’d passed Roger Lee on the front straight and who himself was passed by Rea on the final lap. But Roger Lee couldn’t pull it off and finished 16th.”It was my shortest distance to first place to where I finished,” he said of finishing 41.661 secs. behind winner Max Biaggi, “and I think it would’ve been even shorter if it wasn’t for the incident with Smrz on the first lap, because that was kind of scary.”The top speed chart from race one shows Hayden tied for last with teammate Matteo Baiocco at 294.4 kph/182.940 mph. By comparison, Vermeulen was seventh fastest at 304.2 kph/189.030 mph. Hayden was closer to Vermeulen in the second race, but the gap to Sykes was still over four mph.Hayden was chasing Vermeulen and Sykes on the 12th lap of race two when he tucked the front end after carrying too much speed into the final looping left-hander onto the front straight. It was essential that he get out of that corner well to minimize the top speed deficit. He was able ride it back to the pits, but was forced to retire. It was Hayden’s first crash of the year of any kind, including during testing.”I almost kinda fought it and saved it, but just let go,” he said. “And then I was kinda hanging on for too long and then I let go.”It’s just, the crash is bound to happen whenever you’re braking that deep to try to make up for time,” he said. “I was on the limit both races the whole time. Just doing the best I can.”Hayden admitted venting his frustration when he came in from the crash, “because you’re on the limit that much, I don’t feel like another Kawi should have that much more speed than mine.”Hayden will be back at MMP next weekend for the SCCA Pro Racing Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup, his first ever auto race.
Hayden Short on Speed in Utah
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.