Hayden Struggles in Portugal

Henny Ray Abrams | May 1, 2011

ESTORIL, PORTUGAL, MAY 1 – Nicky Hayden was happy to see the end of the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend. There were very few bright spots for Ducati Marlboro rider in Estoril and too many dark ones, beginning with Friday morning when he lost one of the six Desmosedici GP11 engines he’d been allocated for the season.”Started Friday morning when I had a problem with one bike, may have probably lost an engine,” he said. “Lost a pretty good part of the track time and never really got going. Though Friday afternoon I had a good feeling with the bike. Thought we had maybe changed a couple things from some ride height that I liked and then the rain didn’t help. Obviously, I need to gain something.”Especially this morning [Sunday warm-up], we had some stuff we wanted to try and really couldn’t – it was in the wet – so we really couldn’t try much.”Even before the race began, Hayden knew he had problems. On the sighting lap he discovered a problem with his transmission and clutch that made backshifting difficult. The thought occurred to ride his spare bike, but that would’ve meant starting from the pit lane.”Yeah, the race went about how the rest of the weekend went,” he said. “Had a problem with the bike backshifting. The clutch wasn’t engaging properly right from the sighting lap. On the grid we tried to do some stuff. Wasn’t bad enough to start from pit road or anything on the other bike, so we stayed out. Definitely didn’t help me, especially in the first laps to try to… you know I made up some positions, I was also making a lot of mistakes. And not a very good race, so that’s about it.”Hayden said he’d had clutch-related shifting problems on Friday. “We still manually use the clutch to backshift,” he said.The clutch wasn’t his only problem. The front end on the Desmosedici continues to be troublesome. One lap he lost the front in the bumpy transition onto the front straight.”[I] was a little bit lucky to get away with it, to be truthful. And from there I couldn’t really, I lost the gap and I wasn’t able to charge, attack after that.”The front-end slide came long after he’d been hit by Ben Spies, the Yamaha rider who was struggling with the controls on his YZR-M1. Hayden looked back, but it wasn’t to see who hit him.”Well, I knew who was behind me,” he said. “I knew who it probably was. I just got my pit board two corners earlier, but I don’t know what happened. But normally Spies, ain’t really his style. I seen him already the first lap got in way too hot at the end of the back straight, so yeah.”As to why he looked back after the contact, “I thought my bike was more damaged,” he said. “I felt I got hit and I thought my seat was sticking up. It hit me [on the left] side. I couldn’t look back there. It tweaked my seat a little bit, and so I was looking at that.”Hayden is also looking towards Le Mans, site of the following French Grand Prix. Le Mans has a lot of hard braking, and that’s “the best point of our bike. On the brakes it’s so stable, I think it’ll be good for Le Mans,” he said. The Hondas, notably, have a problem with braking stability. “Last time we were at Le Mans, pavement was pretty good and that’s where I’ve been struggling a lot too is over bumps, especially here this weekend on the front. So, yeah, hopefully we’ll be better in Le Mans.”He should also get some help from a Monday test in Estoril. Hayden and teammate Valentino Rossi are testing both a new engine and new chassis; the front subframe is made of more flexible carbon fiber. The engine has a bigger flywheel, with heavier mass. The concept should improve the turning,

“Smoothes it out a bit on the bottom and a bit more crank mass, a bit better turning, more gyro. The test team’s tested it. We got some information, but we need to try it ourselves.”


Having already lost one engine, having engines of two different specs could be difficult.”It wouldn’t be easy, but if it was a big enough step it would be worth it, if it wouldn’t mess with it,” he said. “But hey, if it was two, three-tenths a lap faster I would go one and one. You know, use one on Fridays, maybe, and one for the race. Even that’s the way it turns out anyway with the way our engines get. After so many miles you more kinda use, have one that you use Fridays and practice and rain and then normally try to keep one for race and qualifying right in the prime.”



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.