"Right now I'm riding really timid and I'm really struggling to get the bike to turn through the corners due to a lack of tire grip," he said. "You know, with the time we've just got to do what we've got to do, and work up to it. The bike has super drive grip. I mean the drive grip is just unbelievable. But, you know, I'm a front end rider, that's why I've done so well in the 600s. And right now I don't have a front end underneath me that I feel comfortable enough to do what I need to do." With so much to take in, the team wasn't fiddling with the electronics because "that's nowhere near our priority list to start adjusting things like that."
The afternoon lap times didn't change much. The team made only small adjustments. The bigger adjustment came when Hacking had to ride his Monster Kawasaki ZX-10R Superbike. He said he wanted to put Buell stickers on it.
The Kawasaki MotoGP team was...
The Kawasaki MotoGP team was impressed not only with Hacking's riding, but also his precise feedback that allowed them to better evaluate new parts and chassis changes.
"It's like jumping out of a Ferrari and jumping in my motor home," Hacking said. "The bike turns good, but...it's two different things. Our superbike is really fast. I mean, it ain't no damn turd. It's every bit as fast acceleration-wise as the GP bike. It's probably not, but it feels like it. The torque is just unbelievable on our superbike.
"The biggest thing is how tight and small the package is on our GP bike and the degree of handlebar rake that we have on the bike. The superbike, I don't have that. I almost felt like I was riding one of those naked street bikes. My bars are so high and I thought to myself, 'Wow, how do you ride this?' To me the bike's the best feeling motorcycle I've ever ridden, until I threw a leg over a GP bike. And obviously the American superbike is still a very good bike for me and a comfortable bike. It's just that you get spoiled when you go over [to the MotoGP bike]."
The bigger surprise was that Hacking would crash the more familiar superbike. Exiting the Corkscrew, he thought it was "a little combination of the new [harder compound] tire and maybe some part of me being a little bit more aggressive on the throttle. And the thing spit me off pretty good. And luckily we came out OK, but the bike didn't come out too good."
By Saturday Hacking and the MotoGP team were having fun, something the team hadn't had much of this year. Hacking was delivering more than they'd expected, first with his test in Japan and now by giving the sort of detailed feedback that only an insightful veteran can provide. His reward was a new chassis. After practicing on the old frame on Saturday morning, he had one each, old and new, for qualifying. After testing them back to back, the new version won out. "It just seemed like it was a little bit more controlled in the middle of the corner," Hacking revealed, but "it didn't fix problems they were trying to address. Maybe a little more feeling in the front.
"I could just comfortably do low 23s on the bike and I was behind Chris [Vermeulen] for a while and I felt comfortable right there sitting with him. And I think we've got a lot more room to improve on the bike. I was happy. I was kind of thrilled to kind of see the bike coming along that much."
A mistake while learning the...
A mistake while learning the Bridgestone qualifying tires put Hacking on the last row of the grid, but he quickly overcame the deficit to charge through a far more experienced pack.
Hacking was continually impressed by the GP experience, but nothing prepared him for the Bridgestone qualifiers. Riders often have three qualifiers, some which last for only two laps with the final lap offering the most grip. Corner after corner he was shaking his head.
"It was something I've never experienced before," he related. "Around [turn] two there, I was on my knee, and just coming off my knee and I was at 100 percent throttle. And it was just incredible. And then the drive I had out of turn five, I was shifting at least 200-300 yards earlier than I was with the race tire on there. I was just like, 'Wow!' I just couldn't believe it. And everything was going good. The first few corners I knew I was getting in there and I knew it was right on the edge of the grip level of the front. It was getting a little iffy, like in five and through six."