No Surprises for Nicky Hayden at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Henny Ray Abrams | August 26, 2011

SPEEDWAY, IN, AUG 26 – Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden admitted that the repaved Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield was “slick and dirty” when he rode the Desmosedici GP11.1 in competition for the first time on Friday morning, but thought it was much better in the afternoon.Hayden was the only MotoGP rider to test the IMS surface prior to the race. The week before this Sunday’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, Hayden rode around the track on a Ducati 1198R as part of a promotional appearance. Riding a production motorcycle with street tires is a world removed from his Desmosedici GP11.1 on slick Bridgestones, but he still believed the new surface was an improvement. The bumps, which last year took down a number of riders, including his then teammate Casey Stoner, were mostly eliminated, but the track was still green. Prior to the mornign MotoGP session, the surface had been lightly used, but by the afternoon it was starting to come in.Not surprisingly, lap times plummeted. Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner dropped his time by 2.8 secs., with second fastest Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2.3 secs. faster. Hayden himself, was faster by 2.5 secs., and the fastest Ducati, while teammate Valentino Rossi improved his time by about two seconds.”It wasn’t spectacular and the track this morning was obviously slick and dirty, just like any new track,” Hayden said, “but it got a lot better and came in pretty quick this afternoon. In a couple of corners it was getting fun, but it is the first day on the new bike and it took me a little bit of time to get up to speed. In some areas we’re not sure how this bike reacts completely, so I can’t say I’m thrilled. I’m eighth fastest and I knew it would be tough coming to my home track and I didn’t realistically think I was going to come in and win, but I hoped to be more competitive than I am today. I’m still a second off, but that’s the way it goes.”Hayden had heard the criticism from some other riders and didn’t want to speak for them. “It was dirty and pretty slippery this morning, but I thought it came in pretty quick this afternoon. It is not the only track in the world, but it seems it is always the American tracks they want more from. I’ve got no problem with it.”What he did have a problem with was tire wear and he wasn’t alone. Hayden criticized Bridgestone for bringing tires that were too hard. Teammate Valentino Rossi couldn’t make the hard rear work. The Yamaha riders also had problems.”We couldn’t even use the hard rear yet, but I had a lot of tire wear, especially on the front and it was very similar to Qatar when the track is dirty,” he said. “Hopefully, with no rain we should get less graining. If we were racing up next it would be a big problem, especially on the front, but with so many Moto2 bikes the track should come in better.”Hayden enjoyed putting the GP11.1 to work for the first time. Rossi had been racing it since Mugello, but this was Hayden’s first ride after having tested it following the Czech Grand Prix in Brno.”The acceleration is a lot better onto the front straight,” he said. “The gearbox feels really smooth there, but all that really matters is lap times an I’m still eighth and about the same place as I was with the GP11 and a second off. We’ll see if we can get closer.”Being in front of Rossi is better than being behind him, Hayden said, “but I want to be closer to the front. It helps ease the pain a little bit, but I want to be at the front.”Hayden was losing time in the second half of the track in the flowing corners. He said he gets behind in the first one, because he can’t get the Desmosedici to steer, and he runs wide, which affects his entry into the next corner “and it is a snowball. I need to get some weight on the front to get the bike to steer and go around some corners. A couple of those fast corners I’m having to use the brake to get the weight to transfer, but you’d ideally like to roll off the throttle and have some pitching.”


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.