Day2 of Honda Testing in Valencia

Sean Alexander
by Sean Alexander

HRC winter test Valencia, December 3, 2002. HRC Riders Shine in the Gloom at Valencia

Frigid temperatures and a slight rain shower in the afternoon were hardly a deterrent, with all three HRC riders improving their times on the second day of a two-day test at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, on the outskirts of Valencia, Spain.

The three Honda RC211V MotoGP riders were greeted with high winds and low temperatures, 14 degrees when the day started. Rear tyre grip was less than what the ridersexperienced at the grand prix a month ago, but new Michelin tyres, tested mostly by Ukawa, allowed all three riders to achieve better times.

American Superbike Champion Nicky Hayden turned a best lap of 1:35.50 late in the day, though his track time was curtailed by a crash just after noon. Hayden was entering the first right hand corner on the predominantly left-hand course when the front end slid away. The damage to the bike was such that it hadto be completely re-built and the team lost over three hours of track time in the process.

"I just lost the front end," Hayden, who completed 55 laps on the day, said. "Got in there and it pushed a little. Went to get on the gas and it went. It was pretty early in the corner. Maybe it was a little loss of concentration. I was thinking 'Do I come in this lap? Do I stay out?"

Hayden suffered only a minor abrasion to the knuckles of his right hand in the spill "It's just one of those things that happens. One of the learning things. It won't be the last one. Until I learn some more, there will definitely be some more because this bike is so challenging," he said, as he continues to learn the intricacies of the MotoGP World Championship-winning 990cc five-cylinder Honda RC211V four-stroke.

His confidence was temporarily knocked back, but in the afternoon he got back up to speed, consistently running lap times as fast as those run by Tohru Ukawa in the November GP. That despite a light rain shower which forced all the riders to pit for a brief period.

"I ran a string of laps in the 35's, mid 35's," Hayden said. With so much time lost, the team reverted to the original settings he'd used on Monday and concentrated on testing tyres. "I tested about four rears and the last one I tired had good grip and gave good feedback. They were the same compound, just different construction."

Ukawa clocked his best lap ever at Valencia, a 1:33.76, under the 1:34.053 he'd run in qualifying for the November race. The feat was especially impressive considering the track conditions and temperature. Ukawa was theworkhorse on the day, turning in 104 laps of the 4.005km circuit. "The tyre I used had more grip, more feeling," Ukawa said.

Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's Motorcycle Group Manager, said that today they'd worked strictly with compounds, including some that favored today's conditions. "Some of them worked quite good in low temperature," he said. "We still have to make sure we can use them in the race. We have to check the endurance."

Ukawa said of his day's work. "It was the same rider, the same bike as I raced at the GP. I didn't know that was my fastest lap. It just felt like any of the other laps."

Daijiro Kato knocked a few hundredths off his Monday time, ending the day at 1:34.54. It would have been more, but a problem early in the afternoon limited his track time to 50 laps. Kato said that he was concentrating onmaking the RC211V better for the race and wasn't changing tyres.

"We made an improvement in total performance, not just one area," Kato said. "We improved the machine for the race, but it was not a big step."

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