With his privateer machine...
With his privateer machine being down as much as 10 mph to the factory bikes, Hayden realizes he can only do the best with what he's got. "They don't have much money. It's low budget," said Hayden of the Pedercini team.
Yet no amount of advice and quick learning could make up for the simple fact that his motorcycle wasn't competitive. None of the Kawasakis were, and his was no exception. Despite running under WSBK rules, Hayden said it wasn't a match for the ZX-10R he raced in '08.
"The last Kawasaki Superbike was a lot better than this," he said. "I think Kawasaki USA had the best one around, I'm pretty sure. Maybe this year's factory is at that one's level, but last year I don't think it was the level that KMC had. And at the end of 2008, Hacking in some races was battling with the two Yosh boys. It was definitely a good bike and that team was fantastic."
At Miller, the evidence was clear. Hayden's fastest top speed of the weekend, 185.167 mph, was second slowest to his teammate Matteo Baiocco's 184.55 mph, and well down on the class leading 195.111 mph of double winner Max Biaggi's Aprilia.
Speed doesn't tell the whole story. The Althea Ducati of Carlos Checa was slower than Hayden's Kawasaki in the first race and the same speed in the second, yet Checa was streaming away before bike problems knocked him out.
"It's kinda weird. The things I was fighting with the first ZX-10R are the same things I'm fighting seven years later," Hayden said of the handling problems. "Heavy through the chicanes. Not a lot of front end feel."
On the all-important electronics side, Hayden said the team was without a dedicated data technician and that he didn't have the range of control of the better-funded teams. The top teams can adjust the electronics in infinite ways, in every gear in every corner. "For me, if I want to change something in second gear, it's second gear in every corner, not second gear in turn two or three. Getting power to the ground kind of thing. It's improving, actually."
What else is missing? "Engine stuff, parts for the engine. Dynos for the engine; people who live at the shop to make the engine faster. Electronics-big thing. Swingarms. The factory gave me a [shock] link beginning of the season." Roger Lee has a good relationship with the factory team. Chris Vermeulen's crew chief is Katsuaki "Katsu" Yanagawa, who was Tommy Hayden's crew chief at Yoshimura Suzuki.
The team is a rarity in the series, an Italian team that doesn't race Ducatis. "They don't have much money. It's low budget," he said. "It's nothing against the team, because the people are great. I mean, they're the nicest people. They're just racing enthusiasts. They love, love, love racing. They breathe it. Been doing it forever. It's a family team. Mom's the cook. Dad, two brothers. They just don't have a lot of money and racing isn't cheap, especially World Superbike. So that's the hardest part." Team Pedercini doesn't have a major sponsor, rather it's a mixture of small Italian firms. Most of the technical partners are also Italian. "They don't speak any English, well some people speak a little, some don't speak any," Hayden said.
To Nicky, that was a major problem that needed to be resolved.
"I know those guys don't speak great English and I've been through that, where you know how to transmit the information and the communication," he began, "because I could tell a few of those guys weren't understanding completely what he was saying. I was in the box and when he would go out I could see the look on their faces and they would be talking. And I don't exactly speak Italian yet, but I can pick up some words to know a bit what's going on.
"[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. The years he was going to it at Kawi, he had such a good relationship with Dan (Fahie). Dan could read him more than anyone. Rog, sometimes he don't just blab like I will: You got to somehow get that information out of him. Dan was really good at that."
The World Superbike season starts and ends early. The Miller round, held on Memorial Day weekend, marked the halfway point on the calendar. On reflection, Hayden can't believe how quickly it's flown by "and for me picking up the pace like I have couldn't have come at a better time now, because people are starting to talk about next year and stuff." Hopeful that the second half of the season will bring more offers, and legitimate ones, Hayden said he would again consider Moto2 and the chance to spend the year living and racing with Nicky.
"Like the formula," he said. "I was always pretty fast on a 600 in America. My size is, I think, about right for a Moto2 bike. A hundred thirty-seven pounds is...a lot of those guys aren't much lighter than that, if any of them, except for (Toni) Elias.
"That series is so deep. I mean 27 guys the last race within a second. So I definitely have interest in that and if nothing comes along and the AMA teams come and I go back to the AMA, that's OK to me too. I just want to race motorcycles. I'd prefer to stay in Europe, but if I got to go back to America, I'm OK with that as long as I have a competitive bike next year. Just want to race."