Hayden had more grip almost everywhere. "Also, getting into a couple of the fast corners, I could get in a lot better. And overall just the stability seems a lot better for me. I just felt more comfortable." The team also raised the forks and made a few small changes. "The lap time might not be better, but after ten laps my tire's going to be a lot better than what we had." And that wouldn't be the final major change.
On Sunday morning, a new updated swingarm suddenly showed up on Hayden's bike after Spaniard Fonsi Nieto crashed his Holiday Gym Moriwaki MD600 during Saturday's qualifying session, breaking his left heel and ankle and putting Nieto out for the weekend. Hayden leaped from 29th in qualifying to 12th in morning warm-up after only nine laps, his lap times dropping by 0.6 seconds and the gap to pole-sitter Julian Simon now 1.064 seconds. So basically all the days and miles of testing - the thousands of dollars in track rentals and airfares and hotels and rental cars and tires - were pretty much a waste of time. Hayden would start his first Moto2 race on a motorcycle configuration that he had exactly 20 minutes of time on.
But the surprises didn't stop there. What are the odds that the three Americans would be involved in the same crash on the first lap of the race? A close examination of the video footage from the MotoGP helicopter camera shows that both DiSalvo and Noyes were coming up the inside much too fast as the pack slowed for Turn Two, and tried to squeeze into a space that wasn't there. But Noyes was actually entering the corner even faster than DiSalvo, as he was several bikelengths behind DiSalvo as the pack began slowing for Turn Two. While it looked very doubtful that DiSalvo would make the corner, Noyes' speed ensured that his fate was sealed; he and DiSalvo collided, with Noyes falling and taking out Hayden, along with three other riders.
These shots capture the first-lap melee that ironically involved all three Americans in the Moto2 race. Jason DiSalvo (just out of far left) and Kenny Noyes (9) have just collided, sending Noyes torpedoing into Hayden (34), who then bowls into Vladimir Ivanov (61), the late Shoya Tomizawa (number 48, tragically killed at the following Misano GP) and Yonny Hernandez (68). Note in the last shot that Hayden's bike has run over his head, twisting it at a horrific-looking angle; he suffered a possible concussion in the incident, but still made the restart to finish 17th.
"I had a perfect start and I got to the second turn and I thought, 'Don't do nothing stupid,'" Hayden recalled. "I made enough spots I didn't need to be a hero, and then somebody just drilled me from behind" ramming his right leg, he said. "I just heard somebody's tire screech behind me and then, boom, I was down."
There were four more riders involved in another crash not 50 feet further down the track, and the race was stopped. Initially the team was told Hayden couldn't re-start because he didn't return to the pits under his own power within five minutes. "The problem was that the initial start never completed a lap," Schwantz said. "Typically if it hasn't completed three laps it goes back to a complete re-start, original grid spots, everything. That being the case, the rule that you've got to get the bike back within five minutes is completely irrelevant. It can come back in on a crash truck at that point. If you have the time to fix it and get it fixed, you get back into the race."
Roger Lee Hayden confers with...
Roger Lee Hayden confers with crew chief John Ethell during a lull in action at Indianapolis. It was not an easy weekend by any means for either of them.
The crew, led by John Ethell, worked furiously to rebuild the bike. Unfortunately, the rear brake sustained damage that couldn't be repaired in time, so they had to send Hayden out with a non-functional unit. Worse than no rear brake, however, was that Hayden suffered a possible concussion.
It was obvious to Erion that Hayden "was not 100 percent" after the restart. Hayden circulated around to finish 17th. "We worked too hard to sit in the pits and watch the guys race," Hayden said. "Couldn't settle the bike down and it wheelied out of the exit on some of the small corners," he said of riding with no rear brake. "It's disappointing. We wanted to do a lot more, but we had no rear brakes. It got broken completely off and they didn't have time to fix it all. Just a few little things and they add up to a lot, and then also just trying to regain my head. Being on the bottom of that pile just took a lot out of me, I guess." A look at the crash photo sequence shows Hayden's helmet getting run over by his own bike, contorting his neck at a horrific angle.