While we cant pretend to know what was said in the meeting Sunday night at COTA between Nick Hayden and his Drive M7 Aspar Honda MotoGP team, judging by the expressions of the Aspar-men leaving the room, it might have been an eye-opener.
Several Aspar team men had a "debrief" meeting with Hayden on Sunday night in Texas. When they left, the Aspar men looked like they had walked into the wrong bar in Kentucky. Being uncompetitive at any race for a former world champion is torture, but being off the pace at one of your home races has to be soul grinding.
These are difficult days for the American former world champion, as he's caught in the middle of a politically charged racing schism. Hayden returns to his home at Honda, backed in part by American Honda. But the politics of the situation are almost as important as the technical specs of his RCV-1000R.
The viewpoints and strategies of the situation are as follows:
Nick Hayden: After multiple years on a Ducati MotoGP bike, Hayden wants top five results in the MotoGP championship. Hayden is 32 years old and is a former world champion. His resume, accomplishments and age mean he doesn't have a season to spend waiting for speed parts to arrive from Japan, and honestly should not have to. His fellow RCV1000R riders Scott Redding and Hiroshi Aoyama are at different arcs of their careers. Redding is 21 and hopes to be a rider for MotoGP's future. Aoyama is the 2009 250cc world champion but has bounced around on different teams and series since then and fights the stigma that he is merely a figurehead in racing now.
Dorna: MotoGP rights owner Dorna, in order to pull itself from a future aligned with CRT-level machinery, asked the factories to build production versions of their factory race bikes that could be sold to satellite teams.
Honda: Honda is the only manufacturer that has followed Dorna's request nearly to the letter. Honda and HRC built a production version of the RC213V and had former two time MotoGP king Casey Stoner test and develop the bike. In typical Honda form, they closely followed the request made by Dorna: building a MotoGP bike that was cost-efficient enough so that independent teams could buy it, and own it. The production version of the RCV-1000R does not have the pneumatic valves nor the seamless transmission of the RC213 and it operates on the "Open" software regulations of the MotoGP rulebook.
The politics of the situation, while towering, don't seem to matter much to Hayden, who looks at times like he is barely keeping a lid on his temper. In the second free practice at COTA, Hayden's Honda pulled 196 mph, whereas the RC213s of Marc Marquez and Stefan Bradl pulled 210 mph.
Honda has mapped out "help" for the RCV, but at COTA they were ambivalent as to when the new solutions would arrive and what they would amount to. Will the RCV get pneumatic valves and the parts to take advantage of the new rev zone?
Whatever help is coming, for Hayden, it can't come, or be, fast enough.