Cycle News - Archive Issues - 2000's

Cycle News 2005 07 27

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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By CHICANERY HENNY RAY ABRAMS What Now? at's next for Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden? Will his win in the Red Bull U.S. GP be the first step toward reaching his destiny, or was it just a blip on the radar? Was it a sign that he's ready to challenge Valentino Rossi, or was it all home-field advantage? Can he build on the momentum of his breakthrough victory, or will his podium drought continue? A weekend's rest gives way to the ninth round of the MotoGP World Championship at Donington Park. The race will be a severe test for Hayden for several reasons. The first among them is Rossi. The track in the English Midlands is Rossi's second-home Grand Prix. To escape the pressures of fame, the Italian makes his home in a chic part of London. And he's won six times at Donington seven if you count 2003, when he was penalized 10 seconds and dropped from first to third. What effect will Hayden's win have on Donington and beyond? I put the question to a few others with unique insight. Wayne Rainey won his first GP at Donington Park in 1988. The victory was easy, he said. He'd built up to it for a year and a half. Then, once it was over, he moved on. "What I learned, though, immediately, is it only lasts for a night, because Monday you're back to square one and you've got to do it again," the famously driven threetime SOOcc World Champion said. But it would take the Californian until the third race of the next year for the second win. "I think some guys, when they actually win that race, they like to promote it for weeks and weeks and weeks, where I never did," Rainey said. "I just said, 'Okay, I did it right there. Let's see what I can do at the next one.' I just think what it does, too, is it gives you confidence knowing that you can beat the guys on your day, early in your career when you're not sure if you can beat these guys. So it was important that you think about it correctly, and hopefully Nicky has and he's going to go to Donington going, 'Okay, it's going to be just another race here.' But Rossi had won eight or nine in a row [actually, nine of the previous 10], whatever it is, so he's had it completely his own way. He got third [at Laguna Seca]. And I think if Nicky is really smart about it, he can make Rossi think about getting beat again, if he does it correctly. Who knows what Rossi's going to do? He's so used to win- ning. Somebody else starts winning, who knows how he'll respond? That's what I'm curious to see. I just don't think he's just going to go 'I'm just going to get second the rest of the year." Hayden gives every indication that the win hasn't gone to his head. "It still is one race; when I think about it, I definitely still smile," Hayden said. "But Donington is just around corner and I've got to start making plans for that." What will it take to consistently beat Rossi, touted by many as the best ever? "Get the lead and hold it," Rainey said, perfectly describing Hayden's Laguna win. "If he charges you, just take it back. And watched Rossi attain mythic status with each race. He's watched Rossi make fools of his competition week in and week out. He's struggled just to get on the podium, something he hadn't done for nearly a year prior to the U.S. GP. "Hopefully, it'll give him a little bit of confidence," Kenny Roberts said. "That's what he's been lacking. A lot of times he's been knocking at the door and so close. Winning in America, for all of us, it just made it better. For Nicky, a win's a win. Of course, I don't know: I never won an American GP. Confidence is something that lets him know he can do it and you can grow into it. I always had he did it right. Sure, not every race is going to be like that. But you do that to Rossi three or four races in a row, you're going to see some mistakes flying out of that Italian." In only his third SOOcc Gp, Kenny Roberts won at the high-speed Salzburgring in 1978. Roberts wasn't surprised. He'd have won the previous race at Jarama but for a stuck throttle. Confidence was never a problem for Roberts. Cockiness, maybe, but not confidence. He knew he had Barry Sheene and Pat Hennen and Johnny Ceccotto covered. For Hayden it's different. He's self-confidence. I never doubted myability to ride a motorcycle. I won my third Grand Prix, and I would've won my second one. It was a different era anyway. I hope that it gives him the confidence to stick it in there. Towards the end of the races, mentally he fatigues, and something happens and he falls back another couple of spots. Hopefully, this gives him a little bit of boost mentally." Former SOOcc World Champion Kenny Roberts Jr. knew the race winner before the start. Junior was talking to Hayden on the grid, and just after the butchering of the National Anthem Roberts said, '''Congratulations on your win.' And of course Nicky wasn't really paying attention to me or didn't even really hear me. After the race, I said, 'Hey dude, did you hear me about congratulations before your race?' He's like, 'No, why?' 'I told you during the National Anthem the guy screwed up.' He said, 'You did?' I'm like, 'Yeah, I did.' He's like, 'How'd you know?' 'F- dude, you're half a second faster than anybody at any given time. That was your race.''' And it was. "I knew it was his weekend from basically Saturday morning," said Roberts Jr., the 2000 SOOcc World Champion. Junior's maiden victory came in the first GP of the 1999 season in Malaysia. Over the winter, he'd graduated from his father's hand-built Proton to the factory Suzuki, and the difference was staggering. Following Malaysia, he won in Suzuka and would go on to second in the championship. "I'm not going to say he has to back it up, he has to do this, do that," Roberts Jr. said. "That's just bullshit. That's what you'll hear everybody else say. He's living a dream. The guy won an American Gp, and all of his fans, It was a low-percentage chance to do it, and he came through. I just say enjoy it and do the best you can the whole race and try and get better to where you can do that week in and week out. "I can't imagine that he wasn't riding well before," Junior continued. "Sure his confidence will be better. If you're riding well, the lap times are good, fast. If you ride off emotion, like a lot of people, . maybe, yeah, the lap times will vary. Valentino [Rossi] doesn't ride off of emotions. If I did I wouldn't be racing around in last again. Some people do and some people don't. I'm not sure what he is. I don't think Nicky rides off of emotions. I think he knew the track well and he got a rhythm going, and the bike was there to give him what he needed, and that was that." The next two GPs are at tracks that are the closest you'll find to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Donington Park and Sachsenring are among the slower tracks, with few fast corners and a premium on momentum. Does Hayden have it? "I've always been a momentum guy my whole career," he said. "It's in my family's blood that we're momentum guys. Same for my brothers. I definitely hope this here will be what I need to be here week in and week out." Stay tuned. eN CYCLE NEWS • JULY 27, 2005 83

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