Nicky Hayden Talks About What’s Right, What’s Wrong, Who’s Next

Cycle News Staff | August 10, 2012

Indianapolis Motor Speedway held a conference call with Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwardsthis week in preparation for next weekend’s Red Bull Indy Grand Prix at the speedway… Here is Hayden’s transcript.

Welcome, Nicky, and thanks for joining us today. What about the IMS circuit suits your style? You have finished on the podium here on two very different motorcycles. One was a traditional frame in the Honda and one was a carbon-fiber frame Ducati. What about Indy just kind of jives with the way you ride?

NICKY HAYDEN: Well, unfortunately those results have been a few years ago. The last couple years, I haven’t really been able to put up a big fight. I like Indy, I like a track to go left, I prefer. Indy is a great example. It is a track built for cars mostly, and I grew up doing left, and most Europeans grew up going right. I don’t think it is a big difference, but I do like going left, and I have had some good opportunities there, and I don’t really think about that. I look forward to this year and try to put up a good fight.

MODERATOR: How much difference did the new asphalt make last year for you guys?

HAYDEN: It was a big difference. The old track wasn’t too bad, but there were a few spots that were getting pretty bad. It made the track a lot more fun and a lot more fast, and I think it opened up a few places where we can pass. Last year, the track was really rough on tires, and the surface was new and was quite abrasive. But I think with a year on the track, it should be better and be the best that we have ever seen the track.

MODERATOR: We also had rubber laid down on the road course last month with the GRAND-AM cars, and that is the first time that you guys had been there with rubber actually laid down on the road course. It used to be that you guys with the bikes were the only vehicles that raced on it since 2008, so the extra rubber that has been laid down has got to help, too.

HAYDEN: Yes, for sure, to clean it up and get some of the dirt off of it. When you first laid down new pavement, it is natural that it will be sharp and be kind of gritty, but when the tires go around it and start smoothing those edges down and you can certainly have a better grip and less wear on the tires. We will see how it is, and we use a bit different line than those cars, especially going the other way, so we will have to feel it out and see how the grip is. But I don’t expect any problems.

Q: I was talking to Colin about the arm pump surgery, and I never knew this stuff existed, and I know that you have had it. Could you talk about how that is like a rite of passage for you guys? It seems like everybody gets it, and Colin said you have to be careful who does it or else you get nasty scars. How is your scar?

HAYDEN: I have got a pretty lengthy scar. So I actually had it done twice. Definitely arm pump is kind of weird, it comes and goes. And is not any clear reason to what has caused it. You can have it at one track and not at another, it can be bike-related, training-related. It doesn’t take much to trigger when you are hold on to a 250-horsepower bike and fighting it, especially with these carbon brakes now. We can brake so hard, and the force, especially on the right hand, is a lot. But at the moment, mine is under control, so I don’t want to talk about it too much.

Q: The one follow-up I had is since you jumped on the Indian and wore that old racing garb way back when, you kind of have been the spokesman and the front man for promoting this race at IMS. Do you still feel that way even though the results may not have been the way that you would have wanted? Do you still feel like a guy that wants to be the ambassador for promoting this race?

HAYDEN: Oh, I would say so. Of course, MotoGP promotes itself. It is the show, not me. But it is my home race. Laguna is an American round, but my true home race, I have to consider Indy. It is only three hours away, just across the bridge, so a lot more of my friends and family come to the race, and I grew up racing a lot in Indiana. Dirt tracks and even road racing there, so I consider it much more my home. I do enjoy and I do feel some obligation to promote the race and give back to here and there. But once I get there, it is business as usual, and I cannot change my routine too much.

Q: Just wanted to ask you now that you are signed with Ducati next year if you might be able to give an idea of what teams or series you were considering or had been talking to you while you were negotiating?

HAYDEN: Well, my main objective was always to stay in MotoGP. It is the pinnacle of our sport, and that is where I wanted to be and hang in there and hopefully get back to the front. So, of course, I wasn’t ready and I didn’t know how negotiations were going to go and did have a bit of interest from some other series. But it was nothing that excited me. It was something that I would consider if it got down to it, but I was going to ride something and I wasn’t just going to come home and ride the couch just yet. I wanted to do everything possible to stay in MotoGP and it had to get worked out.

Q: The Ducati’s have a tough time this year; there is no secret to that, but do you have hopes that perhaps this season or going into next year they will find a combination that works and give you a chance to win again? If that is the case, what kind of changes do you think they need to make to give you a competitive motorcycle?

HAYDEN: Of course I believe that, or I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to come back for another year. I believe we have the pieces and the resources and certainly this year we just haven’t made it happen. I see a lot of effort going in, but Laguna wasn’t a great weekend for us. We struggled a lot going in, and before that we came from Mugello, where I would say me and Valentino, I would say we as a team had out best dry race that we have had in two years. So that was really encouraging. Every now and then, we catch a little hope and see a little light, and we think now things are going in that direction. Right now, there isn’t a lot that we can do, but after summer break we have a test in Misano after the Czech Republic race, and there we are going to try a few things. And we have some difference chassis parts coming in later in the season, and I certainly believe in this team and believe in this bike. And I think they have done it before, and there is no reason why they can’t do it again. We have been off a bit, but if everything comes right, certainly there is no reason why Ducati can’t be completely competitive in MotoGP or in any series.

Q: 1000cc Ducati bike at Indy, how fast is that thing going to go? Top speed?

HAYDEN: Top speed, I can’t quite put a number on it, but it is definitely going to be faster than the 800 there. Especially off of last corner out of Turn 4 (of oval, Turn 16 of road course), slower corner is where these bikes accelerate a lot more than the 800s. At Laguna, the fans there, I would say they didn’t really see a big difference because the turns there are so tight and so slow to where we are in second gear at half-throttle. But here on the front straight we will be able to open them up. I don’t think we will be able to see Mugello speeds. Mugello was pretty high, even Mugello wasn’t as high on Dorna’s radar as on the data. The way the beam and everything is set, they don’t always get the outright speed so our data is even a little faster than Mugello. So, I am sure, Indy we are going to be pretty quick down the front straightaway, well over 200.

Q: Any news on any possible siblings of yours racing MotoGP at Indy?

HAYDEN: Yes, there was some talk. Especially, me and Vito (Guareschi) had talked at Laguna about Rog (Roger Lee Hayden) riding (Hector) Barbera’s bike because he didn’t have a contact with the manufacturer. I know there was some discussion, and there has still been a bit of discussion, to be honest, about Indy, but I don’t think any answer had been made. But there has definitely been some talk.

Q: Enjoying the break?

HAYDEN: Yeah, it’s all right. It has been nice. It hasn’t exactly been like a vacation, but sure, being at home around my family has been nice. But Indy is probably the race that I look forward to the most. So I will be excited to ease on over to Indy on Wednesday to start the week.

Q: Have you had any more talk with the role in Audi may have to speed the bike up, to make it more competitive? Have you heard any more talk with people at Audi or at Ducati about what their role is going to be or how they may help develop the bike?

HAYDEN: No not completely, I spoke with Filippo (Preziosi) on Tuesday. So you know that is not going to happen overnight. That is going to take some time to bring in those resources, but definitely that is something that will happen. I just don’t know how quick, and I don’t have a real answer for you there.

Q: Are you more optimistic now that you know that Audi is back in?

HAYDEN: Absolutely. Audi is a great partner for Ducati, both financially and technically. If you have to be partnered with somebody, I see a strong company and something new and fresh, and that is one of the reasons I was so excited about coming back for another year and see what we can do. How quick it is going to change? I don’t know, really. That takes time, and that isn’t something that just a couple of engineers are going to show up and whatever. Like anything, it is going to take real work and real time, and I see it as a big positive for Ducati, for a race team, for everything.

Q: Have you mentioned chassis parts coming in down the road? Have you tested more than one chassis or have your tested more derivatives of the original chassis?

HAYDEN: The actual chassis from the start of Malaysia, I wouldn’t consider it that much testing because I was injured. But yes, I am using the same actual chassis that I started the season with. We have had some modifications to the chassis, some stiffness here, and we changed parts after Mugello, but the actual chassis is the same.

Q: Where are you in terms of engine wear this year?

HAYDEN: I am on schedule. It is a bit tight, but nothing that we can’t handle if we don’t have any problems, so I think I will be in another new engine soon. But at the moment, we are right on schedule for the mileage.

Q: There was some talk about a new spec engine for Laguna but, if I remember correctly, largely electronics. Any more talk about that?

HAYDEN: No. I did put in one new engine at Laguna, but the spec wasn’t much different. Maybe a few little parts had changed, but maybe later in the season this engine has the capability of putting updates to it. Once the engines are sealed, you can’t touch them. But with the new engines, you can add some parts to help with the electronic stuff. But what I raced with was very similar to what I have been running this year.

Q: I was wondering with all the changes you have made you are basically making a tenth here a tenth there, but you really aren’t in the fight for the win. Do you think you need a new chassis and a new engine? Some people say it isn’t the right shape or the right place to be truly competitive. Or do you think you can sort of phan-agle something that works?

HAYDEN: Well, I am a rider and I am not an engineer, so certainly I don’t try to overstep that. I can tell them it needs a new, but new is not always better. Especially midseason when you start throwing new parts at it. It doesn’t work normally that easy. Every now and then you can hit on something new, and it is automatically better. Normally when you bring in anything new, it takes time to make it work and adjust. It is hard to say. Last year we brought in new chassis and made big changes during the season, and I would say it hurt us. Things became confused. We lost track; we lost our way a bit. So it is clear that we need to do a big step. A tenth, two tenths isn’t going to help us. Usually I give my feedback to the engineers and whatever they say it needs. Of course, we have to fix out understeer, and we have to make it stiffer and better. Some of it could be caused from the engine. Whatever it takes to fix that, I would say it has to be fixed. We certainly need something modified with the chassis, but to say a complete new design, I am not sure. We have some ideas to change some weight distribution around, and already Valentino has tested that at Mugello, and it is one of the areas that we are working on.

Q: Are you going to tell us who your teammate is?

HAYDEN: No, I am not going to tell you because I don’t know. I haven’t really got caught up in it because it doesn’t change that much for me. I am sure I will find out a little before you guys, but not much. I thought you were going to tell me, Henny?