Q&A with Colin Edwards & Nicky Hayden

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Late last week, Indianapolis Motor Speedway held a teleconference with MotoGP riders Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden, helping gear us up for this coming weekend’s Indianapolis GP. We couldn’t make the call, since I was busy freezing my ass off on some mountain in Colorado, but the good folks at IMS were kind enough to transcribe the interview, and share it with us.

With the teleconference taking place just before the announcement that Valentino Rossi would be leaving Ducati at the end of the season, and joining Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha, Hayden had to field a couple questions regarding the 2012 MotoGP Silly Season and his teammate for next year.  Of course, Hayden also fielded questions about Audi’s Lamborghini’s acquisition of Ducati, and how that would affect Ducati Corse’s MotoGP efforts.

The interview sheds some good insight into what is happening with Colin Edwards at the NGM Forward Racing team, which has struggled with its BMW/Suter CRT package all season. Forward Racing is expected to make a switch to an Aprilia ART bike at Indy, which so far has been the most competent CRT package on the 2012 grid, and the topic the CRTs vs the Prototypes is one Edwards talks about at length. Perhaps most interesting is Edwards’ take on the American road racing landscape, and the geopolitical issues within the MotoGP paddock.

Continue after the jump for the full transcript of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway teleconference.

MODERATOR: You have made no secret about the package that you have for the CRT bike that you have this year. You guys have struggled with the electronics and other various elements of the bike, and you guys keep chipping away and chipping away. But you did test some other bikes after the race at Mugello last month. Any news on the equipment from at Indy for you guys?

COLIN EDWARDS: Damn, how do you know about all this? All this is supposed to be a secret? (Laughter) No, right now I don’t know. Obviously we have what we have, make due with what we got, and there might be something at Brno. Honestly, I haven’t had any contact with the guys, and I don’t know if we are 100 percent this way or that way. So for the moment, we are with a BMW-Suter, and we are going to go racing.

MODERATOR: Indy is a unique circuit in that it has the long straightaway and which clearly favors the prototype and their extra horsepower. But it is pretty tight in the infield, which could probably give you CRT guys, which are using the production-based engines, maybe a chance to stay in the front. How do you see Indy on a CRT bike? It is a great unknown, because they haven’t run there yet. Do you see that as a circuit that maybe the CRT bikes could run closer to the prototypes?

EDWARDS: I have yet to be at a track where the CRT bikes work better anywhere than the prototypes. You know, to answer your question, I don’t know. At Laguna, honestly, the bike felt pretty good. The lap times were slow; all the CRT bikes were slow. All the lap times were slow, and when you have a short lifetime like that, I mean, it is the first time in my career that I got lapped. From 4 years old, obviously, I am not in the same spec of bikes as the leader, but that was kind of heartbreaking, to be honest with you. Indy, on the other hand, I don’t know. We are just going to have to go and see how far off we are, do the math, ride our ass off and see what happens.

Q: I just wanted to find out if you have figured out what your plans are for next season? Are you going to be back on a prototype bike next year or if you will remain in MotoGP? I just wanted to see what the plans are?

EDWARDS: Yeah, at the moment, I can’t answer that. You can imagine that I got everything from a two-year deal with these guys. If we can or if it is possible to get a prototype under us or a CRT route, you know, I have even thrown out the idea of let’s go Superbike racing. At the moment, I am with these guys, and we will see what it comes to.

Q: Someone, maybe me, suggested to you that it would be great to see you in World Superbike next year. I didn’t get to hear the response was, why don’t you tell everybody.

EDWARDS: I don’t know if I heard what my response was. Did I have a beer before I said that? I get this question about World Superbike. But you know how long I was there, been there and done it. And it is definitely a possibility: That is all I can say. I don’t know, I don’t know. I like the team where I am at, and I love the team that I am working with, and the team is one of the best teams that I have ever worked for. We will just have to try and make it work, somehow, some way.

Q: How important is winning now in your career?

EDWARDS: Yeah, it would be nice to win again. I am not going to lie to you. You know, it would be nice to know that you line up on the grid and that you have every chance possible to win as the next guy. That is the way my DNA is programmed.

Q: I have a few different things for you, but the first one is something a Speedway official told me about. It seems to be a badge of honor with you guys, and it is this arm-pump situation. It seems you haven’t been initiated as a motorcycle racer until you have had arm-pump surgery. Can you tell me about it?

EDWARDS: The arm-pump surgery, yes. On your forearm you kind of have a sheath, let’s say that kind of encapsulates everything, and when your muscle expands, it pretty much cuts the blood circulation off and it gets pumped up and it gets too thick for the blood to flow. I blew mine out a long time ago; I mean, you can do it naturally by working too hard or lifting something or whatever it does. I went to the doctor to go have the surgery when I was climbing a lot, and I thought I was getting arm pump, which I was. But come to find out I didn’t need it. I found out I was just working my arms too much, and I went to the doctor, and he said, ‘You don’t need it.’ You have already blown it out. So the doctor said to stop climbing and you will be fine, which I was.

Q: Everybody seems to have to get this at some point?

EDWARDS: Yeah, obviously the bigger the bikes, the heavier the bikes are and the harder you are going to work. It is a good thing, I have seen guys do it, and they have had the surgery and now they just don’t have arm pump at all. So it works and it leaves nasty scars if you have the wrong doctor, but, you know, chicks kind of dig scars. It is what it is, I guess.

Q: I know from talking to you over the years that this is a dangerous sport and you guys get beat up all the time, anyway.

EDWARDS: Yeah, exactly. You have scars all over your body when you are done here.

Q: Regarding this track, I know someone has expressed some optimism after the Brickyard race that those GRAND-AM cars running on the road course that it might wear in some of that asphalt a little better. Do you have any thoughts about running here this year?

EDWARDS: Man, to be honest, I haven’t really even thought about it. I think we were all pretty pleased with it last year. Yeah, even better if they are running it in and laying some rubber down. Even better. Sometimes we go to tracks where cars have been, and it is the wrong kind of rubber, and it just turns into ice when you put motorcycle rubber on it.

Q: Everybody is pleased but Casey Stoner?

EDWARDS: Oh, yeah. You are going to take that up with him.

Q: When we spoke earlier in the year at Sepang, you were a bit optimistic about the formula and you were a bit down on prototypes. Now it seems to have turned around some. Was there a point at which you sort of changed your thinking about the whole concept?

EDWARDS: Well, whenever you see the prototypes getting faster and faster, and they are just getting further and further away from us. When we first started this gig in Malaysia, we were three seconds off the pace or 2.8 – whatever that numbers was – our thinking was that number would come down, and our development schedule isn’t nearly what the prototype guys are. And that gap has only gotten bigger. A lot of the stuff that we were conned into let’s say, we were going to have a new chassis every other week and blah, blah, blah, and you know the rest of the story. It just really hasn’t come to fruition. The gap is just getting bigger at the moment.

Q: Where do you think the CRT bikes are suffering most? There is talk of a spec ECU coming in from (20)14 or (20)15. Is the electronics your biggest problem or is it the chassis?

EDWARDS: My biggest problem is from the starting line to the last corner and everything in between. Our biggest problem is that you put it all together. Engine, everybody has gone to this big-bang or V or a cross-plane crank, and it is more tractable power. It is just more common sense for racing. So we have strike one there. Chassis, I feel we are way rigid, the bike is too small. Strike two. Electronics, yes. The system we are on, my 2003 Aprilia had that on it and had better electronics than what I am on now. So strike three. It’s everything. I can’t sit here and point the finger at one thing, and say, ‘Well, if we had that we would be 10 times better.’ It’s everything. Electronics, yes, they have a habit, if the electronics work, you can kind of get everything else to work, chassis, engine wear. If your electronics are wrong, you can’t even get a feel for the chassis. And that is kind of where we are at.

Q: Do you think there is talk of a spec ECU for both the prototype and the CRT bike. Do you think having that level playing field where everyone is just playing with maps instead of traction control, fuel strategies or whatever? Do you think that would make a big difference or will the prototypes just cream everyone?

EDWARDS: Well, let me explain something. I have heard this spec ECU and spec ECU coming up, but it is impossible. For me, it is impossible to have one spec ECU to run on a cross-plane, inline four-cylinder, a V4 or all these different configurations of engines. They have different power characteristics, anyway. So we always play with the butterflies and the electronics to smooth out that power. So how are you going to field one spec ECU for all these different engines? Somebody is going to have an advantage right off the bat. And then you are going to change your engine to accommodate the ECU. So I don’t really buy it. A spec ECU with all of these different engines, I just don’t see it working.

Q: And yet the Ducati and the Yamaha, which are very different, both running Magneti Marelli, isn’t that a spec ECU already?

EDWARDS: OK, the ECU itself and all that crap in the ECU, there are so many different parameters. That is where all your time is, adjusting this and adjusting that. With Honda’s system and Suzuki’s old system, they change over, great. Let’s see what happens.

Q: Are your engine and electronics built in house or are they currently outsourced?

EDWARDS: My engines come to my knowledge, we bought a package from Suter, and Suter bought a package from BMW. So BMW sends the engines from Suter and directly from factory to factory, let’s say. They put it in, and we get the package. It is webbing it altogether, and we get the final product. As far as I know, we have nothing in house, in team house, let’s say.

Q: Do you have any idea if your engine spec is similar to let say, Melandri in World Superbike?

EDWARDS: I have talked to BMW, and we have got the same/same or maybe the crank. That might be a little bit different. But at the end of the day, they own the electronics that they have been developing for the last four years, so that seemed to work. Where we have been developing this Bosch system for a few months, and it still doesn’t work.

Q: As far as the chassis, have you spent much time changing your body position, say, more sitting in the bike, as opposed to sitting on it.

EDWARDS: The bike feels so small. It feels like you are sitting up on top of it. We have pulled the whole seat pad panel that was on the cushion; I just pulled it off. I will deal with my knees and legs later in life, but for now I need to get into the bike, and I am a little crunched up in the lower half, but it feels a lot better and I feel more in the bike.

MODERATOR: Most of the people on the panel are well aware of your Texas Tornado Boot Camp down on the outskirts of Houston. Folks come in for a long weekend or a week and have a good time, ride, drink a few beers, sit around the campfire and tell stories. But you have some special guests this week. This is no ordinary session.

EDWARDS: This is no ordinary Boot Camp. Yes, we have a lucky 11 or 12 that have paid to come and enjoy and some training and teaching, but at the same time we have Jorge Lorenzo, and Ricky Cardus from Moto2, Bradley Smith from Moto2, Randy Krummenacher from Moto2, Tommy Aquino, Dustin Dominguez. I don’t want to forget anybody. Yes, we have some big names here, and it is going to be fun. I can’t wait; it will be an exciting weekend coming.

MODERATOR: Now is this Jorge’s first time to Texas?

EDWARDS: Yes, his first time in Texas. He got off the plane and said he felt like he landed in Malaysia. It’s 100 degrees here and humid as hell. For those of you that want to see pictures this weekend, you can always follow me @TexasTornado5 or @Lorenzo99 on Twitter, and we will be updating quite often with some pictures.

MODERATOR: What unique bits of Texas are you going to give Jorge at the camp this weekend?

EDWARDS: We have barbecue, and we will figure out some way to turn his gas off when he isn’t looking and he can peter out during the Superpole lap or something like that. That is kind of the initiation around here. We will figure that out on the fly. I initiated him to Texas golf this morning. I said: ‘Hey, get up. It’s 6:30, and we are going to play golf,’ and he said: ‘That’s too early. I don’t normally go to sleep until then.’ And then a couple hours in, he said, ‘Let’s just do nine. I can’t do 18; it is just too hot.”

MODERATOR: There is talk next year of there being three races in the United States with Laguna, Indy and a race down in Texas. What does it mean to you as an American to see the growth of this sport compared to say when you first came in the World Championship in 2003, there were no American rounds? Laguna didn’t come back until 2005, and now 11 years later, there might be three. Talk about the growth of MotoGP in America.

EDWARDS: You know, this might now be the most politically correct answer to your question but honestly, I think it awesome. The merrier, the more I get to hang around my house and my family and do what I love to do. That is awesome and the scary part of that question is the growth part. Are we growing? Yes, we are, but I am not sure that we are selling a lot more motorcycles than we were 10 or 15 years ago or if we are even selling them at all. But the reality is when we were at Mugello, the decline in attendance and I know that no one has any money to buy a ticket. But at the end of the day, that is Rossi’s home track, and it is normally nuts, and this year kind of scared me, to be honest with you. I was like, ‘Where did everybody go?’ I would much rather see Mugello wide open just because that is the heart of MotoGP racing, and that was just scary to me to see that and I don’t know why. I don’t know if it is economy or whatever.

Q: The question about three races in America reminded me of something. Mugello Saturday in the press conference, we had five Spaniards the front row of the MotoGP and the two pole sitters in Moto 3 and Moto2. And things are not looking very hopeful to follow you and Nicky and Ben, maybe in MotoGP. Where do you see the next great American road racer coming from?

EDWARDS: That is a good question. Give me 10 years because I am training my boy right now. Man, I don’t know. I know that we have little Joe Roberts from Houston, great kid. We have some young kids around that are running local, Dustin Dominguez. I don’t know; I just don’t know. I was just talking to Jorge this morning and Cardus, and they were talking about a little training camp that they have in Spain, that Jorge’s dad has, and they have 5- and 6-year-old kids on pocket bikes running full schools. It’s that Tiger Woods routine, and that is starting them on a bike as soon as they can walk and roll with it. I know that we have that here; that is what I did. But I am not sure how many kids are getting that opportunity at 3 or 4 years old to get out and do what they want to do, which is go ride.

Q: To me, the problem seems to be not so much the talent but the clearly faster Americans out there. There was a whole host of them that came over, but they seem to have all gone home and are racing Supersport or the Daytona Sport in the AMA. How do we keep Americans in the series? Do you have any ideas?

EDWARDS: You can ask Nicky on this and don’t quote me, but for the first time that I remember he was in the right place at the right time and had the right passport. Obviously he is doing a great job for Ducati, but there was talk about maybe Cal or keeping Valentino. But this is Ducati’s biggest market, and they need an American rider, and you don’t ever hear that usually. It is normally we need to have a Spanish rider and a Japanese rider on the bike. He had the right passport in this game, and it was a good play for him to have an American passport.

MODERATOR: Welcome, Nicky, and thanks for joining us today. What about the IMS circuit suits your style? You have finished on the podium here on two very different motorcycles. One was a traditional frame in the Honda and one was a carbon-fiber frame Ducati. What about Indy just kind of jives with the way you ride?

NICKY HAYDEN: Well, unfortunately those results have been a few years ago. The last couple years, I haven’t really been able to put up a big fight. I like Indy, I like a track to go left, I prefer. Indy is a great example. It is a track built for cars mostly, and I grew up doing left, and most Europeans grew up going right. I don’t think it is a big difference, but I do like going left, and I have had some good opportunities there, and I don’t really think about that. I look forward to this year and try to put up a good fight.

MODERATOR: How much difference did the new asphalt make last year for you guys?

HAYDEN: It was a big difference. The old track wasn’t too bad, but there were a few spots that were getting pretty bad. It made the track a lot more fun and a lot more fast, and I think it opened up a few places where we can pass. Last year, the track was really rough on tires, and the surface was new and was quite abrasive. But I think with a year on the track, it should be better and be the best that we have ever seen the track.

MODERATOR: We also had rubber laid down on the road course last month with the GRAND-AM cars, and that is the first time that you guys had been there with rubber actually laid down on the road course. It used to be that you guys with the bikes were the only vehicles that raced on it since 2008, so the extra rubber that has been laid down has got to help, too.

HAYDEN: Yes, for sure, to clean it up and get some of the dirt off of it. When you first laid down new pavement, it is natural that it will be sharp and be kind of gritty, but when the tires go around it and start smoothing those edges down and you can certainly have a better grip and less wear on the tires. We will see how it is, and we use a bit different line than those cars, especially going the other way, so we will have to feel it out and see how the grip is. But I don’t expect any problems.

Q: I was talking to Colin about the arm pump surgery, and I never knew this stuff existed, and I know that you have had it. Could you talk about how that is like a rite of passage for you guys? It seems like everybody gets it, and Colin said you have to be careful who does it or else you get nasty scars. How is your scar?

HAYDEN: I have got a pretty lengthy scar. So I actually had it done twice. Definitely arm pump is kind of weird, it comes and goes. And is not any clear reason to what has caused it. You can have it at one track and not at another, it can be bike-related, training-related. It doesn’t take much to trigger when you are hold on to a 250-horsepower bike and fighting it, especially with these carbon brakes now. We can brake so hard, and the force, especially on the right hand, is a lot. But at the moment, mine is under control, so I don’t want to talk about it too much.

Q: The one follow-up I had is since you jumped on the Indian and wore that old racing garb way back when, you kind of have been the spokesman and the front man for promoting this race at IMS. Do you still feel that way even though the results may not have been the way that you would have wanted? Do you still feel like a guy that wants to be the ambassador for promoting this race?

HAYDEN: Oh, I would say so. Of course, MotoGP promotes itself. It is the show, not me. But it is my home race. Laguna is an American round, but my true home race, I have to consider Indy. It is only three hours away, just across the bridge, so a lot more of my friends and family come to the race, and I grew up racing a lot in Indiana. Dirt tracks and even road racing there, so I consider it much more my home. I do enjoy and I do feel some obligation to promote the race and give back to here and there. But once I get there, it is business as usual, and I cannot change my routine too much.

Q: Just wanted to ask you now that you are signed with Ducati next year if you might be able to give an idea of what teams or series you were considering or had been talking to you while you were negotiating?

HAYDEN: Well, my main objective was always to stay in MotoGP. It is the pinnacle of our sport, and that is where I wanted to be and hang in there and hopefully get back to the front. So, of course, I wasn’t ready and I didn’t know how negotiations were going to go and did have a bit of interest from some other series. But it was nothing that excited me. It was something that I would consider if it got down to it, but I was going to ride something and I wasn’t just going to come home and ride the couch just yet. I wanted to do everything possible to stay in MotoGP and it had to get worked out.

Q: The Ducati’s have a tough time this year; there is no secret to that, but do you have hopes that perhaps this season or going into next year they will find a combination that works and give you a chance to win again? If that is the case, what kind of changes do you think they need to make to give you a competitive motorcycle?

HAYDEN: Of course I believe that, or I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to come back for another year. I believe we have the pieces and the resources and certainly this year we just haven’t made it happen. I see a lot of effort going in, but Laguna wasn’t a great weekend for us. We struggled a lot going in, and before that we came from Mugello, where I would say me and Valentino, I would say we as a team had out best dry race that we have had in two years. So that was really encouraging. Every now and then, we catch a little hope and see a little light, and we think now things are going in that direction. Right now, there isn’t a lot that we can do, but after summer break we have a test in Misano after the Czech Republic race, and there we are going to try a few things. And we have some difference chassis parts coming in later in the season, and I certainly believe in this team and believe in this bike. And I think they have done it before, and there is no reason why they can’t do it again. We have been off a bit, but if everything comes right, certainly there is no reason why Ducati can’t be completely competitive in MotoGP or in any series.

Q: 1000cc Ducati bike at Indy, how fast is that thing going to go? Top speed?

HAYDEN: Top speed, I can’t quite put a number on it, but it is definitely going to be faster than the 800 there. Especially off of last corner out of Turn 4 (of oval, Turn 16 of road course), slower corner is where these bikes accelerate a lot more than the 800s. At Laguna, the fans there, I would say they didn’t really see a big difference because the turns there are so tight and so slow to where we are in second gear at half-throttle. But here on the front straight we will be able to open them up. I don’t think we will be able to see Mugello speeds. Mugello was pretty high, even Mugello wasn’t as high on Dorna’s radar as on the data. The way the beam and everything is set, they don’t always get the outright speed so our data is even a little faster than Mugello. So, I am sure, Indy we are going to be pretty quick down the front straightaway, well over 200.

Q: Any news on any possible siblings of yours racing MotoGP at Indy?

HAYDEN: Yes, there was some talk. Especially, me and Vito (Guareschi) had talked at Laguna about Rog (Roger Lee Hayden) riding (Hector) Barbera’s bike because he didn’t have a contact with the manufacturer. I know there was some discussion, and there has still been a bit of discussion, to be honest, about Indy, but I don’t think any answer had been made. But there has definitely been some talk.

Q: Enjoying the break?

HAYDEN: Yeah, it’s all right. It has been nice. It hasn’t exactly been like a vacation, but sure, being at home around my family has been nice. But Indy is probably the race that I look forward to the most. So I will be excited to ease on over to Indy on Wednesday to start the week.

Q: Have you had any more talk with the role in Audi may have to speed the bike up, to make it more competitive? Have you heard any more talk with people at Audi or at Ducati about what their role is going to be or how they may help develop the bike?

HAYDEN: No not completely, I spoke with Filippo (Preziosi) on Tuesday. So you know that is not going to happen overnight. That is going to take some time to bring in those resources, but definitely that is something that will happen. I just don’t know how quick, and I don’t have a real answer for you there.

Q: Are you more optimistic now that you know that Audi is back in?

HAYDEN: Absolutely. Audi is a great partner for Ducati, both financially and technically. If you have to be partnered with somebody, I see a strong company and something new and fresh, and that is one of the reasons I was so excited about coming back for another year and see what we can do. How quick it is going to change? I don’t know, really. That takes time, and that isn’t something that just a couple of engineers are going to show up and whatever. Like anything, it is going to take real work and real time, and I see it as a big positive for Ducati, for a race team, for everything.

Q: Have you mentioned chassis parts coming in down the road? Have you tested more than one chassis or have your tested more derivatives of the original chassis?

HAYDEN: The actual chassis from the start of Malaysia, I wouldn’t consider it that much testing because I was injured. But yes, I am using the same actual chassis that I started the season with. We have had some modifications to the chassis, some stiffness here, and we changed parts after Mugello, but the actual chassis is the same.

Q: Where are you in terms of engine wear this year?

HAYDEN: I am on schedule. It is a bit tight, but nothing that we can’t handle if we don’t have any problems, so I think I will be in another new engine soon. But at the moment, we are right on schedule for the mileage.

Q: There was some talk about a new spec engine for Laguna but, if I remember correctly, largely electronics. Any more talk about that?

HAYDEN: No. I did put in one new engine at Laguna, but the spec wasn’t much different. Maybe a few little parts had changed, but maybe later in the season this engine has the capability of putting updates to it. Once the engines are sealed, you can’t touch them. But with the new engines, you can add some parts to help with the electronic stuff. But what I raced with was very similar to what I have been running this year.

Q: I was wondering with all the changes you have made you are basically making a tenth here a tenth there, but you really aren’t in the fight for the win. Do you think you need a new chassis and a new engine? Some people say it isn’t the right shape or the right place to be truly competitive. Or do you think you can sort of phan-agle something that works?

HAYDEN: Well, I am a rider and I am not an engineer, so certainly I don’t try to overstep that. I can tell them it needs a new, but new is not always better. Especially midseason when you start throwing new parts at it. It doesn’t work normally that easy. Every now and then you can hit on something new, and it is automatically better. Normally when you bring in anything new, it takes time to make it work and adjust. It is hard to say. Last year we brought in new chassis and made big changes during the season, and I would say it hurt us. Things became confused. We lost track; we lost our way a bit. So it is clear that we need to do a big step. A tenth, two tenths isn’t going to help us. Usually I give my feedback to the engineers and whatever they say it needs. Of course, we have to fix out understeer, and we have to make it stiffer and better. Some of it could be caused from the engine. Whatever it takes to fix that, I would say it has to be fixed. We certainly need something modified with the chassis, but to say a complete new design, I am not sure. We have some ideas to change some weight distribution around, and already Valentino has tested that at Mugello, and it is one of the areas that we are working on.

Q: Are you going to tell us who your teammate is?

HAYDEN: No, I am not going to tell you because I don’t know. I haven’t really got caught up in it because it doesn’t change that much for me. I am sure I will find out a little before you guys, but not much. I thought you were going to tell me, Henny?

Source: IMS; Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved