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Nick Hayden Interview: Epilog
by dean adams
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This is the last installment of this interview. Part one can be read here while part two may be read here, and part three is here.

Q Are you super-familiar with the racetracks that you race on now, after five years?

A Honestly, I think, in the past, I think people made a bigger deal about learning the tracks. Now, the tracks over there - the actual layouts are not hard to learn. It's just a different type of track. But I'd say the tracks, it's not so where there's so much elevation, blind, it's not like you're going to Loudon or something like that, where it does really take a long time. I can't use that as an excuse. I know the tracks plenty good by now.


"That Yamaha on Michelins package, you could see it wasn't for lack of effort on Valentino's part. He was definitely, at times, getting every bit of everything out of that bike and that package. Which you would expect. Which he should. That's what he gets paid the big bucks to do. I don't know about some of the stuff he said. Sure, emotions run high. There's times this year I've probably said stuff after the race that come out wrong. People interview you after a race, and it's pretty easy to get a guy to say the wrong things. Really, who am I to say what Valentino's got going on over there? Sure, you lose $58 million or whatever they say he lost to the taxes. If I lost that, I'm probably going to say a few things that come out the wrong way, too. Clearly it's been a hard year."
Q Do you think that part of the reason that Pedrosa won at Valencia is that he really understands the nuances of that place?

A No, not really. I don't think he knows Valencia really any better than anybody else. I think it just all came together. One thing, as we've seen when we tested on Tuesday and Wednesday that weekend, as crazy as it may sound, he chose the right tires on Thursday. And he rode a great race, and was hungry for it, and pushed hard. I can't really say—I mean, the home crowd may have helped a little bit, but I can't say he probably knew the track any better. The track suits his style a lot, but no, I wouldn't say he knows it better than anybody else.


Q What's your schedule like, from now until Thanksgiving or Christmas?


A Tonight I go to Malaysia. We're testing over there. Actually, Honda talked about maybe after Valencia not even testing there. Because the new bike, the engine is not quite up to speed yet. We don't want to go testing too much with an engine that's not ready. You could steer yourself wrong. So we'll probably have to take the old bike there and use it a bit. But Michelin wants to test some front tires and stuff, so I still wanted to go. Obviously take advantage of the opportunity. One thing where we really struggled this year was new track surfaces. Laguna, Malaysia, Misano, front tire wear was really, we had big problems there. So this'll be a good chance for us to go back to a track that the surface is still basically new, to test some front tires. I still wanted to go. Go there, test for three days, then come home just before Thanksgiving. And my brother's wedding. I'm glad to be home for Thanksgiving. It doesn't seem too often I get to be home for that, and I still love it. I know my mom'll be happy, so I'm looking forward to that, and Tommy's wedding should be fun. A lot of our friends and people we used to race with, a lot of people's coming. Tommy's excited, and I'm excited about it too, I guess.

The morning after that, I go to Jerez for the last test of the year. Kind of busy. From the time I left for Phillip Island, I've only been home four days. I think I'll be home four days in a stretch of five or six weeks, because after Malaysia we tested, and I went to Russia for some PR thing, and went home for about four days, and this trip I haven't got home. That's a little bit of a stretch, but it's all good. It's a bit of a grind this time of year, but it's all good.


Q You bring up the new bike. I've heard it both ways: that the new bike is very similar to the original 212, and that it's very different. In your estimation, which is it?


A I wouldn't say it's much different. The riding position, when we measure from the handlebars to the seat to the pegs, that sort of thing is all quite similar. You actually sit a little bit lower in it. But I would say the big difference is the seat, which I'm quite happy about. That seat didn't ever really grow on me. This one here is back, has the pipes coming out the center of the seat, and a real exhaust system on it out the other side, which will hopefully be a lot better. It's kind of got away from some of that mass centralization stuff that was the concept of the first one, which didn't really pan out like we'd hoped. It was a lot of engine heat with all the pipes down there. It was hard to work on, and everything ran really hot. So this one here is opened up. My first feeling was with the chassis, I liked it a lot. The balance seemed better. The pitch, the weight transfer, wasn't so aggressive, and so much. It was a lot more balanced on the brakes. And also exciting the corner, the wheelieing and stuff wasn't as bad. But right now, we're just working on the engine. Which, if there's one problem I feel like Honda, they know how to make engines. They can solve those problems. We need more power, and right now, the engine is not smooth. There's some holes in the power, which makes it hard to ride. So that's where our focus is right now. And then the pneumatic valves. Right now, the old engine is still faster. But this here seems to have a lot more potential. But still, Valencia, I was able to get in the :33s on it, but was about half a second faster on the old bike. Clearly, we've got work to do, but I honestly think we've got a better base to start with for next year than the position we were in a year ago. The main thing right now's the engine. I think the chassis is - obviously, we've got work to do, but I think our real gains are going to come from engine and electronics. I think we can catch up to some of our rivals with some work in the electronics.

Q One of the shade-tree crew chiefs , when the pictures of the new RC212 came out, was were looking at the distance from the rear axle to the swingarm pivot, from the front axle to the steering head, and that looked very similar to the original 212, but the top part of the chassis and the seat, which you mentioned, looked much, much different. Is that pretty accurate?


A Yeah. It's actually a bit longer. It's a bit longer. And also, the swingarm is quite a bit different. The way it's braced. It goes off the bottom more. The swingarm looks completely different than anything I've really seen on a Honda, so I'd say that's one of the big areas as well. But yeah. The seat is obviously the thing that looks so much different. Like you say, if you took the seat apart, it's not a lot different.


Q Last question is a Valentino Rossi question. I've been very surprised at the amount of hysteria associated with Valentino this year, and his public outcries about the tires and the bike and things like that. What's it been like from your perspective?

A What do you mean when you say "hysteria?"

Q He's lashing out. He's clearly very frustrated.


A Well. It's going to be hard for me to take a shot at a seven-time World Champion when he's had one bad year, and he's over there with a broken hand and a bad back. Our sport is the way it is. You're only as good as your last race. Like it or not, that's the truth. Yeah, he had a rough year. But I rode with that Yamaha. That Yamaha on Michelins package, you could see it wasn't for lack of effort on Valentino's part. He was definitely, at times, getting every bit of everything out of that bike and that package. Which you would expect. Which he should. That's what he gets paid the big bucks to do. I don't know about some of the stuff he said. Sure, emotions run high. There's times this year I've probably said stuff after the race that come out wrong. People interview you after a race, and it's pretty easy to get a guy to say the wrong things. Really, who am I to say what Valentino's got going on over there? Sure, you lose $58 million or whatever they say he lost to the taxes. If I lost that, I'm probably going to say a few things that come out the wrong way, too. Clearly it's been a hard year. But that doesn't give a guy an excuse. You've still got your sponsors, everybody you've got to represent. I don't know. That's a bit of a tough question, too. I don't need to motivate the guy. I'm sure he's going to come back next year on Bridgestones plenty strong. I know it'll be a big year. His legacy, he's not going to want to go out losing. Lorenzo's his teammate. Here we are, a long way from Qatar, and he's going to Bridgestones. Already it's got a lot of talk, and a lot of things going. It'll be interesting. I think people are already counting the days down to Qatar under the lights.

Q Really the last question: Schumacher on the Ducati. Were you as stunned as the rest?

A You know, I talked to him, actually. I never had met the guy before, and Randy introduced me. Somebody said he did :37s, I also heard he did a :39. I didn't have him on the stopwatch. Some of those times get mixed up real easy, kind of like the Daytona tire test before they had transponders. People get mixed up with their times. I didn't watch him, so I can't really say. He had told me he's been to Mugello and rode the bike there. So it wasn't like he came in straight off his Harley and was out there putting down lap times. He's ridden, and had bikes, and this and that. Yeah, it's impressive. But he has got a big wealthy of knowledge. I can't really say I paid that much attention, and I didn't see the lap time on a stopwatch, so I don't really have a comment. What'd they say? If he really did :37s, that's impressive. I think they said Schwantz did :36s. That's impressive.

Q If he did go that fast, do you think part of the reason is that he's been through a lot of traction control. Like your brother, Roger Lee, who said after riding the Kawasaki that it's just difficult to whack that thing wide open and make it work?


A You know, that's hard to answer, because I don't know what system Ducati has. I know our system. I think we can improve a lot. I don't think we're as advanced as the Ducati is. On our bike, I can tell you, you cannot just whack the throttle open. It's not like people think traction control is, on our bike. But I know the Ducati is quite advanced. So maybe on that bike, he can. Supposedly Loris, that's what people—he could never get that, where Casey could. I definitely, the electronics have made things a lot—people say, "Oh, they're easier, they're easier." Yeah, they're easier, but people are just riding them faster now. Just because you've got electronics, drop in there behind Stoner and then tell me how easy it is.

Yeah, it's made the bikes probably easier to ride, but I don't think it's made it any easier to try to break track records, because everybody has it. I think that's something people don't understand. They think traction control is like in a car. You can't just whack the throttle and wheelie this or that. It's a big part of that, and it's a big help, but everybody has it, so it's not really any different than when nobody had it. Yeah, it's made things, tire life as the race goes on, easier, you change your settings, but I can't really - I think it's made it easier for probably 250 riders. Honestly, I liked it without. I think for my style, my dirt-track background, would be to my advantage if nobody had it. But we're not riding around in horse and carriages any more, either, and this is the future. But I think people have a misconception about it, that it makes it a lot easier, and that just whacking the throttle open—well, I know with what we got, that's clearly not the case.

ENDS

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