MONTMELO, SPAIN, JULY 2: When Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden looked at the monitor he couldn’t have liked what he saw. Well into Friday’s first practice session for Sunday’s Catalunya Grand Prix he was near the bottom of the order. Only a pair of senior Japanese test riders were behind him. The reminder would be of last year, when he started so slowly on Fridays that he joked he’d be ready if the race was on Tuesday.There were a few good reasons for his slow start, foremost among them the weather. The 127F track temperature caused a severe lack of traction in the long corners. As the session progressed . he was able to find a little more grip and get a little more out of his engine. Hayden lost one of his six engines last week in Assen and has to be careful with the remaining five. By the time the hour finished he’d recorded the eighth fastest time, just over a second slower than his teammate, Casey Stoner.Now he has to find a solution to his traction problems in the morning if he’s to get on the first row or two for Sunday’s seventh round of the championship.”We struggled in the beginning to get any traction,” he said. “The long corners was just no grip from the rear and then we changed towards the end of the session-we put in a softer tire and a softer shock-which helped quite a lot for the traction, but then started to push the front, so got to figure that out.”With the forecast for an even hotter weekend, Hayden isn’t likely to get any relief, even though he would like a cooler track. “I mean, I’m struggling for traction and that’s been my problem a lot when I have struggled has been traction, so the hotter the track the worse it is on the edge.”On the exit if it’s sliding and driving, then yeah, that’s great, but when it’s sliding and spinning, that’s a problem. That’s what I had today. You need enough traction to really transfer to really push the tire in the ground. The first two or three exits, it was just coming down and stopping and going sideways.”The tire choice last year was the hard option and Hayden didn’t think this year’s soft would last the distance.”We got the same tires as last year and everybody used the hard tire, so I’d say the soft would be a big stretch,” he said. ” But sometimes the hard tire, when it’s real hot like this, many times in Malaysia you actually use something a little bit softer because it doesn’t spin as much and the rubber stays on longer and the temperature’s less. Because spinning is what causes temperature and loses rubber. Not always, but it can be.”Teammate Stoner had earlier remarked that the multi-compound side of the Bridgestone asymmetric rear tire felt different. Hayden also noticed a difference, but thought it was down a a shock change, “but I definitely felt like I had more grip with the soft tire on the left also. Sometimes those tires are like, where the hard place changes over is not necessarily right in the center. Was the same tire we had last week which is basically exactly the same, same-same on the left, but the right is different.”Engine life was another issue. Because he’d lost an engine in Assen, he has to manage the number of kilometers on the engines he has remaining. One of his engines is “getting towards the end of his life and was feeling it a lot more here than in Assen,” he said, adding that the difference is in acceleration, off the corners, and not as much on top speed. “So at the end of the session I was on the other bike and seemed to help a lot. I have to use that a bit to manage the weekend.”
Hayden Starts Slow in Spain
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.