DERBY, ENGLAND, JUNE 22: The gamble Nicky Hayden made on his season didn’t pay immediate dividends.
When the Repsol Honda rider committed to the pneumatic valve engine for the remainder of the year, he was told there was no going back. He was fine with that, heading into today’s British Grand Prix at Donington Park. He understood he was on a new chassis with a new engine, essentially a brand new motorcycle.
But an electrical problem early in the race caused him enough anxiety to blunt his drive for the podium. Rather than hold the fourth place, where he ran for the first three laps, Hayden slid back to seventh, getting passed by Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo on the 26th of 30 laps.
The weekend hadn’t gone smoothly. Friday was dry and clear, but Saturday was full wet, cutting Hayden’s dry track set-up time in half.
On race day, problems with his ‘A’ bike forced him onto his backup, “which, you know, wasn’t great. And you know the race started OK and things were going decent, but I had a warning light came on the dash about lap nine or whatever. I did my two best laps” on laps six and seven “and that next lap the warning light came on and I wasn’t sure what it was. It wasn’t really a big problem that really hurt anything. But with the electronics, you get a warning light; normally something’s wrong. And can be, you don’t know if you go into a corner and have no engine brake system or no traction control.”
This had happened before in testing. “It’s one thing riding it, but when you’re racing, the situation was a little bit different. And I couldn’t make some passes stick and lost a bit of time.
“But we learned a lot. I mean, the bike finished. And it would have certainly been nice if we could have had two dry days to dial some things in. But unfortunately all of our electrical problems happened on race day. But other than that, actually I think we learned a lot. And definitely going to be, if we can pick up from here, we’ll be alright.”
Now comes a short week to next Saturday’s Dutch TT at Assen, Holland. He’s hopeful the engineers can resolve the electrical issue. And he’s also hoping to make more headway with the settings.
“It’s a little bit different and we changed some stuff on Friday for this bike and also for the tires. It wears the tires in different ways,” he said.
It’s also more thirsty on a track that demands fuel consumption, “and to be able to finish, do all 30 laps, was quite important. I mean, obviously yesterday we planned on doing a long run and seeing what was happening, but we didn’t do that.”
The longer he spoke, the more Hayden was convinced that he’d made the right choice.
“Yeah, actually I feel pretty positive,” he said. “Donington isn’t a track I’ve always thought of as my favorite anyway. And also being that it was somewhat competitive in the rain. I mean, I feel pretty positive that we made a good choice and we can move up from here.”