TOOELE, UTAH, MAY 29: Roger Lee Hayden finished the first day of practice a happy 18th.The Pedercini Kawasaki rider has struggled this year, often racing on tracks he’s never seen while getting acclimated to the globetrotting lifestyle. Though this is the first World Superbike track he’s actually raced on, he doesn’t consider it much of a homefield advantage. Still, he said, “It’s nice. It’s a lot better when you come around, when the board doesn’t say 24th, 23rd.”Hayden’s best qualifying effort is 21st in the previous round at Kyalami. He’ll certainly improve on that mark this weekend and should qualify for Superpole. But there’s work to be done. Gearing is his biggest problem, with a secondary issue of chatter. Neither, though, will dampen his enthusiasm for racing in front of the family and home crowd and in full health at Miller Motorsports Park. In 2008 he rode with a broken back and in his previous appearance he rode with a broken ankle. “I know the track; I wouldn’t necessarily consider this home track advantage.”That said, he added, “It’s been nice, actually, not having to learn a track this morning. Obviously, I think the lap times kinda show I’m a lot closer off the bat,” he said. Hayden qualified 2.289 secs. off the pole time of Jakub Smrz. “Not that I have a lot of time at Miller, but I like the track too. Not only do I know it, but I enjoy riding here. I think it’s a lot of fun. So, yeah, it’s been nice. The weekend has started out really good, so pretty happy.”Hayden’s tenth lap was his fastest, then he settled into a rhythm while the team tried to find the optimal gearing. At the end of the session he nearly equaled his best on three consecutive laps.”We were trying stuff, a different gearing,” Hayden began, “and not only that, when I did that lap time, just out of nowhere I dropped 1.2 secs. in one lap, so I just kinda got to that lap time and then I stayed 50.8, 50.8, 50.9 there at the end.”Actually on my bike it says 50.7. So that’s one reason why I didn’t improve. For me, I really need a draft up the front straightaway, because I’m down on some speed.” Hayden’s best qualifying top speed was 294 kph; fast qualifier Jakub Smrz topped out at 300 kph. “That lap I had a perfect draft off Luca Scassa when I did the 50.8. Then in the end I rattled off a few of my own. So like to improve a little bit more tomorrow.”Low 50’s, 49’s would be an attainable target-not easy-and just look for a good race. I mean I’m close to a couple factory guys, so we’re getting closer to a few factory people. We’re steadily improving.”More improvement needs to come in the first split. With Hayden’s current gearing, the ZX10RR isn’t pulling strongly enough in the first few corners, “but if we go back to the gearing that’s good through there it kills it through the few tight straightaways; I’ve got to shift and backshift real quick.”If we could, well if we were allowed to change the transmission and put a second gear in there, or even have one, that’d be the dream, but that place is just killin’ me. That and the bike’s got a little bit of front chatter, but not too terribly bad in a few of bumpy corners. So just a few little thing. The biggest thing, my problem, is getting the bike out of the corners, the fast corners. The gearing’s a little low rpm and just need a few more ponies to pull it.”
Roger Lee Hayden Optimistic on Day One
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.