"We spent six days testing and then the fluke thing happens the second lap of practice and you lose 20 minutes," Hayden said after practice. "I thought the engine was locking. And after turn 13 I knew there was a problem. It was really slowing and I thought, 'Oh man...if we've lost an engine, then we're going to miss the whole first day. This is not going to be good.'" Hayden was down in 23rd spot by end of the first session, which all things considered, wasn't disastrous. More tellingly he remarked, "We're just fighting for rear grip. My biggest issue is I'm spinning all over the place. Hopefully we can get some ideas for that." DiSalvo, meanwhile, was a surprising tenth fastest and 0.6 seconds faster than Hayden.
There were other problems. Hayden's top speed was well off the leaders despite being given a brand new motor by supplier Geo Technologies. (The cost of the motor, entry fee, and ECU was €12,500 /$16,630.) A common theory is that it needed time to break in, but the engine never got appreciably faster.
The Moriwaki chassis was an...
The Moriwaki chassis was an impressive piece, although the firm's insistence on using Kayaba suspension put the team on its heels until they decided to take matters into their own hands and fit an Öhlins rear shock (note the missing rear shock in photo).
The team was belatedly told the engines could run hot. IRTA tech boss Mike Webb told the team their engine was running 10°C hotter than normal, which probably cost them a few horsepower. When Erion went to the grid for the race, he saw other teams using battery-operated blowers on the radiator and intake. Did Moriwaki make a bigger radiator? "We didn't have one, we didn't know if there was one. We didn't ask," Erion confessed. Moriwaki technicians told the team they needed to cut holes in the bodywork, at which point American Honda stepped in and said, "Wait a minute...we can do some of this, but not all because we spent a lot of money on the look of this bike and that's going to change the look of the bike." Then the question became, "Why didn't you tell us this three or four weeks ago before we painted everything?"
When the project was initiated, there were a number of non-negotiable conditions: one was the use of KYB suspension. On first blush, it made little sense in a class in which everyone had the same motor and ECU, and many used the same chassis. The one area where teams can create their own advantage in a spec-racing class is with suspension. Jumping into the game was hard enough on equal equipment, but to try untested suspension when the use of Öhlins was universal was a significant handicap.
Schwantz knew something about the Kayaba suspension: he'd used it on his Suzuki RGV500 during his championship year of 1993. "We used to go test Kayaba stuff for a day or two," Schwantz began, "then, just out of curiosity, we'd tell the Showa guys, 'Hey, let us try some of your stuff.' They'd give us one shock, 'here's a base setting, go try this.' And just like that, it would almost be as good.
"Once we knew where that setup range needed to be every weekend, it was much easier. But when you're trying to throw everything together like this, the adjustability needs to be a little bit greater there. I think that's a negative aspect of Kayaba - but a lot of the time it helped us fine-tune the thing even that much better." Basically the team noticed that they'd reach a certain point, and no matter what they did to the bike, once Hayden got to that wall, no more progress was made.
The American Honda crew erected...
The American Honda crew erected a pitbox wall when they were initially told they'd be sharing it with Jason DiSalvo's team. DiSalvo was moved to another garage, replaced by an American 125cc GP wildcard team.
Just before qualifying, Schwantz was seen walking towards the pit box carrying an Öhlins TTX36 rear shock; "You're not supposed to see this," he said with a smile. "We simply asked Moriwaki if we could try an Öhlins shock because we felt the KYB was holding us back," Erion said. "They said, 'Oh, we understand racing is very important and sometimes if there's something you want to try that's going to make it better we don't want to stop it.'" The next day the team was asked to put the KYB back on. The answer was an unequivocal "no."