MONTEREY, CA, JULY 23 – It’s been an interesting few weeks for Roger Lee Hayden.Two weekends ago he was in the Czech Republic racing the Pedercini Kawasaki on Pirelli tires in Brno. Then he flew home and off to Chuckwalla Raceway in the Arizona desert, where in withering 117 degree heat he tested the American Honda Moto2 bike, on Dunlop tires, which he’ll race at the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. And today he got the first chance to throw his leg over the Bridgestone-shod LCR Honda RC212V when practice rolled out for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.”In a 12 -month period I’ve raced AMA Supersport (Daytona SportBike), World Superbike, MotoGP and then I’ve got Indy,” Hayden said. “A 12-month period I’ve raced every top of the line series. You know, it’s kinda, I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it certainly keeps it interesting.”Hayden got thrown in the deep end when he got the call last Sunday to replace the injured Randy de Puniet on the LCR Honda. Hayden hadn’t ridden a MotoGP bike since he was a wild card on the factory Kawasaki here in 2007. And he’d never ridden a Honda RC212V and he hadn’t ridden on the newest Bridgestone tires.”It was quite an adjustment for me,” the youngest Hayden said. “For me it took a little while to get used to the tires, because it took so long before they came and then trying to build confidence in ‘em. Took me a little longer than I would’ve liked, but, y’know, it’s only a one-hour session on a GP bike, so I was four-tenths off. We’re last, we’re four-tenths to the next guy [Alvaro Bautista], I don’t think is really too bad for a start.”We’re not here to try to win the race, so we just kinda took our time, worked on a few things and then tonight we can look at the data. And with Randy, he uses a lot more front brake than I do going into the corner, so I was having trouble getting in because it didn’t have enough weight on the front, so tomorrow we’ll try to put a little more weight on the front and try to get into the corner better, because right now I don’t get in the corner and then it just messes up the exit and everything. But I had fun, I enjoyed it and just glad to be able to see some people in front of me and have something to shoot for now.”The biggest difference between the wild card ride and this race is that he’d gotten to test the Kawasaki for a day. The first time he rode the LCR Honda was when he rolled onto the track.The team has upgraded electronics for the weekend and received the 2010 factory chassis and swingarm two races ago in Catalunya.”The bike’s been really good and the team, they can change a lot with the data, it seems like, with the wheelie and less spin in every single corner,” he said. “If we had more time to work with what I like, I think we could make a lot of improvements quick, but it’s just amazing the stuff that they can do with electronics now. I think the bike’s pretty good.”Though the tires didn’t feel much different, he’d been warned by brother Nicky that they were. A number of riders, including Valentino Rossi, have been caught out on cold tires. Roger Lee didn’t want to be one of them.”Give the tires some time to come in here,” is what Nicky told him, “because you seen last year a lot of guys got caught out and also he said if you slow down for a lap and try to get a tow, if you slow down too much be careful because it’ll catch you back out. If you slow down for a slow down for a lap to try and get behind somebody and drop the hammer straight away, you’re liable to get caught out. So just a few things like that, because I don’t really want a silly crash because of the cold tires.”What also took some adjustment was the carbon front brakes. Hayden uses steel brakes in World Superbike and had to “readjust the brain” to the carbons, “because with the superbike, as soon as you hit the brake it stops. With these, I need to be a little bit faster, a little bit more aggressive longer. So, just got a lot to learn in a short time and get up to speed quicker.”
Roger Lee Gets Up to Speed
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.