Catalunya MotoGP: Nicky Hayden struggles for grip

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Baking hot conditions and a lack of rear grip left Nicky Hayden languishing down in eighth place on the timesheets at the end of first practice for this weekend’s Catalunya MotoGP race in Spain. 

Hayden struggled more than most to find decent rear grip as track temperatures soared to an extreme 53 degrees. 

Rear grip in hot conditions has been an issue previously for the Kentucky rider on the factory GP10 and today was no exception as he ended with a best time of 1.44.440.

That left him 1.181s off the best pace and he said: “We struggled in the beginning to get any traction. The long corners I just had no grip from the rear and then we changed towards the end of the session with the softer tyre and a softer shock, which helped quite a lot for the traction.

"But then I started to push the front and now we have to figure that out. Also in the beginning, because I lost an engine last week when I crashed in Assen, we kind of had to manage that.

"We felt here in the heat, the first bike I was on for the first bit, it’s getting towards the end of its life and I was feeling it a lot more here than in Assen. So at the end of the session I was on the other bike and it seemed to help a lot. I just lost acceleration on the old engine.”

Hayden said his preference was for cooler conditions for the remainder of the weekend with air temperatures rocketing to an energy-sapping 37 degrees.

He added: “Probably I would like a cooler track. I’m struggling for traction and that’s been my problem a lot. The hotter the track the worse it is on the edge of the tyre. On the exit, if it’s sliding and driving, then that’s great.

"But when it’s sliding and spinning, that’s a problem. That’s what I had today. You need enough traction to really transfer weight to really push the tyre in the ground. The first two or three exits, it was just coming down and stopping and going sideways.”

With track temperatures so hot, the former Repsol Honda rider doubted whether the softer compound Bridgestone rear tyre would have the endurance to complete the 25-lap race.

He added: “We need to check more, but probably not. We got the same tyres as last year and everybody used the hard tyre, so I’d say the soft would be a big stretch. Sometimes when it’s real hot like this, you actually use something a little bit softer because it doesn’t spin as much and the rubber stays on longer and the temperature’s less. Spinning is what causes temperature and loses rubber. Not always, but it can be.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt