One of Roger Lee Hayden's...
One of Roger Lee Hayden's biggest obstacles is communicating with his Team Pedercini crew, who speak little English. "[You've got to] slow down with the communication and try to be more clear, more simple and a lot more thorough; those guys are there to help you and you've got to give them the right information," brother Nicky told him.
Hayden "was looking pretty much anywhere, because everybody knows rides were kind of slim pickins coming into this year. So I was looking into AMA, Moto2, and even World Superbike." Hayden's management had what he believed was a tentative deal to be part of the inaugural Moto2 class. They'd been given a verbal commitment on Thanksgiving by Michael Bartholemy, who ran Kawasaki in its last years as a factory MotoGP team and was now managing the Belgian-owned Marc VDS Racing team. For the next few weeks they planned tests, and discussed the choice of chassis and technicians. "And then after two weeks went by, three weeks, hey, where's the letter of intent? Never came. Christmas comes, still no letter of intent. At this point I had told everybody I had gone Moto2, I had a verbal commitment." It was worthless. The team had signed Brit Scott Redding and Spaniard Hector Faubel.
"So six weeks later I figure out that ride didn't exist," Hayden said. "Then this opportunity was kinda...I wouldn't say, I really didn't have no other choice, but at the same time I'm glad I did it." Without prompting, he adds, "It's not like I'm miserable or hating life. I'm having a lot of fun doing the World Superbike thing. It's not that I'm discouraged, it's just I'm not doubting myself. I'm just pushing. I want to be on a factory bike. That's my goal now."
Roger Lee certainly hasn't...
Roger Lee certainly hasn't suffered from a shortage of counsel-or ball-busting-in his corner. Here on the Monza start grid, MotoGP moonlighters included brother Nicky (left) and housemate Ben Spies (right). Roger Lee stayed at Spies' Italy home for a few months to avoid commuting back and forth to Owensboro.
"I know what it was like getting over there," said Nicky Hayden. Nicky was Valentino Rossi's Repsol Honda teammate in '03, his rookie season. "But I think he's got the right attitude. He's just going to parlay that into something better, catch somebody's eye along the way. Try [to] get onto something better next year. He realizes that's probably not going to put him on Haga's bike, or something like that. But get on a better support team, get on something that he can show his talents a little bit better. In the meantime learn the tracks, learn the life, learn the whole deal."
Roger Lee has embraced the lifestyle. Rather than commute to Kentucky, he spent a few months living with Spies and his mother, Mary, in Italy. Roger Lee made a perfect training partner and housemate for Ben, while Mary was in charge of logistics. Hayden would consider living with Spies again next year, depending on where his team is based. "I know last year when I talked to a few of the factory teams they like you to be based closer to them so you can come in for a meeting. So I guess I would have to play it by ear. But I wouldn't mind doing the same thing because I know how to kinda get around Lake Como a little bit."
Hayden had a valuable resource in Spies and he made good use of it. Spies had won the World Superbike title on his first try and knew what Roger Lee was in for. And Nicky provided input on common tracks. An early tip on Phillip Island kept him off the ground when Nicky warned him about the bumps in the first corner.
"At Phillip Island, first right-hander, and first day of the test two or three people crashed right in the beginning and I was easy through there," Roger Lee said. "Spies [gave me some advice on a few] corners, 'Hey, this corner's a lot faster than you think and you can make up a lot of time there.'"
Hayden rates the high-speed...
Hayden rates the high-speed pavement of Monza as his favorite circuit so far, although the lower-rung spec of his ZX-10R didn't enamor him to one aspect of the track: "I coulda did without the long straightaways."
"You know, it's kind of weird, picking up the tracks for me has kinda gone better than expected," he said. "At Monza, my fourth lap, I was already as quick as my teammate and that's his home track. I was the highest I was in any session in the first practice. South Africa, the same thing. But it's definitely hard. I could still do a better job. I study a lot of video, download the races from the year before and go over with my data guy where the people shifted last year, so I kinda know where to shift and what gears to be in. It's difficult, but it's going better than I expected on that front."