Nicky Hayden On Replacing MotoGP Riders: The Level Is So High, It's Nearly Impossible

Prior to the first day of practice at Assen, Nicky Hayden gave his usual press debrief, to talk about the upcoming weekend's race. With two MotoGP regulars out for the foreseeable future, and factory test riders in at Fiat Yamaha and Interwetten Honda, we seized the opportunity to ask Hayden why he thought that the teams went with test riders, rather than bringing in a young talented rider to get some experience on a MotoGP bike. Here's what Hayden had to say on the matter:

Q: We've got two test riders coming in to substitute for Rossi and Aoyama, who are both injured. Why is it so hard to find someone to ride these bikes?

Nicky Hayden: You know, I'm not sure. I don't know why Colin turned it down. He complains his bike was slow but then he didn't want to ride the factory bike. I didn't understand that. But you know, I'm not really sure, because it's not like you're trying to get somebody to fill the Ilmor, these are bikes that can win races.

But like I said last week, I was cycling with Bayliss at Misano, and I asked him if anybody had called him, and he said no. So I asked him if he'd consider it, and he said absolutely not! He said, MotoGP now has just become so on the limit, in qualifying, boys just go till they crash, pretty much. We've seen that in Misano, and we were talking about how good Bridgestone tires are, until they let go, and then they're so big. And I think the level is just so high, you can't just call in somebody from the bull pen whose going to jump in this paddock when there's only fifteen guys who've been testing and know these bikes and these tires. I think people would just look silly. I don't think you can just bring in a wildcard whose going to be in the mix, be in the top 5. If there was already somebody out there like that, they would already have a job.

Q: So you think it was smart for Cal Crutchlow to turn down the ride, because for a start it would have meant racing 6 weekends back-to-back?

NH: You know, it's a touchy deal, because Cal, he knows the deal, I don't want to speak for him, I don't know the exact terms, but it was a little bit risky. If Cal keeps doing what he's doing, he's going to get a legitimate shot with some testing, and really do it the right way.

I don't know his situation, so I can't say, but then again, he was going to jump on Rossi's bike, with Rossi's crew: If you're ever going to make an impact, you know, you might wait your whole life for the chance to ride a factory GP bike. Those opportunities don't come up that often, so sometimes you've just got to jump on them. But he knows what he's doing.

Q: What about two years ago, when Loris Capirossi crashed, and Ben Spies had the chance to jump on the Rizla Suzuki, and he turned it down. Do you think that was a wise decision?

NH: Looks like it turned out pretty good for him, though.

Q: Saying what you've just said, that the level is so high that you won't make an impact if you just come in and do one or two races.

NH: Like I said, there's not a lot of guys out there who could come in. I mean, name me somebody who you really think could just come in and ride?

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Oh my gawd....did he say what I thought he said? Edwards turned the Fiat ride down? I've heard it all now and first off why would he do that? That makes zero sense to me coming from a guy that's never won a premier class race. It just makes me wonder now if Ben was asked or not. David, did you have any knowledge that Edwards was asked to ride and if Ben was as well?

On a side note, I love Nicky man. He gets right to the point with his statements and also about asking Bayliss about the ride. Classic Kentucky Kid

Comments/reports from Poncheral, Michael Scott, and others on this issue suggest that CEIII was the first and only rider to be offered VRs seat, and this clearly came with the condition that an acceptable substitute could be found for the seat that Colin would vacate at Tech3.

It was Colin's seat that Cal Crutchlow was offered (i.e., not with the FIAT team), and these deliberations apparently dragged on for a while but ultimately fell through. Consequently, there was a protracted search for alternatives to fill CEs seat at Tech3, and when that ultimately failed (just prior to Silverstone), CEIII lost his shot at substituting for VR in the Fiat team.

This is partly me piecing stuff together, but perhaps David can clarify that with CE/Poncheral et al.

the entire picture was not as simple as it came across but what is simple was the yes or no question to Colin. Would you like to ride the best bike in the garage along with the best crew and maybe the best crew chief EVER? Now that's a simple answer I think! Say YES YES YES and let someone else sort out who's going to ride his bike.

...but it had to have the green light from Poncheral et al. He was obviously very disappointed when he responded that there was a "0.0% chance of substituting for VR" during the rider's for health auction. His disappointment was also was evident during interviews after FP1 and FP2 when he angrily complained that "I know I could do a lot better if they gave me a bike to do it with". I believe that CE didn't turn down the offer, but rather was denied the opportunity.

Colin said he didn't want to ride Vale's bike in a post Mugello race interview on He was very clear on the subject.

article from Matt Birt:

The interview with Jarvis is consistent with the inferences in my previous post (but admittedly, they are inference; only the principles involved know the actual story for certain). It is possible that, knowing that he would not be permitted to sub for VR, CE played up the 'loyalty to my team and sponsor' card. It is contract season, after all.

Well, like I said in my other comment. I thought Bayliss would be the guy for the job,if he could get out of his Ducati commitments. Seems even he wouldn't want to do it.

I am not too shocked that CE wouldn't want the ride. He likes his team and realizes that he has not much of a chance to win a race regardless of the bike he is on.

Bayliss' desire to get out of his Ducati commitments. When I worked at Ducati Richmond, I got to know Doug Polen fairly well, and had a lot of conversations with him regarding his essentially lifetime employment with the company.

Bottom line is that Ducati has a habit of rewarding their successful riders very well once they're retired from the firing line. Lifetime employment. You go to a dealer opening, tell a bunch of stories (that your family is probably sick of) to crowds that really want to hear them, and you're paid decently well for the job. Likewise Bayliss' on-off testing job on the new bikes. It given the factory good publicity, but also gives them a worthwhile, experienced, different point of view on development.

If it's the same kind of deal that Doug Polen has, Troy has a lifetime paycheck for staying in the Ducati family. And a lot of fans want him to throw that away just so they can be entertained for a few races.

By the way, how effective do you think he would be? If this was a Ducati, I'd say he'd be right in the thick of things. However, on a completely different bike, different configuration, different design philosophy . . . . . . . . . . he'd probably be finishing tenth, maybe seventh by his final race. Little matter of a learning curve.

in a recent interview on RoadRacerX -

Personally I don't think he's been denied the Fiat seat by his team, but that he himself wouldn't really have wanted to do it either. It's certainly a good chance, but on the other hand he seems pretty loyal to Tech3 and with their sponsor commitments it's also understandable to say No.

Maybe Colin might still be still a little miffed about being dropped from the Factory Squad. He did say Yamaha is not paying him in the interview on Road RacerX website that stv21 posted. I think as much as I hate to say it.......Colin is slowing down. He has always been one of my favorites but after reading that article with him talking about how VR is the best.......which he would have NEVER done back in the day, and not wanting any of the pressure of riding VR's bike. This is not the Colin I used to see. This may be his way of saying, "Oh, you want me to ride factory now....well kiss my Texan Ass cause I ain't riding."

but I disagree that CE "would have NEVER [called VR the best] back in the day". In fact, CE has been calling VR the GOAT (greatest of all time) for several years--he coined the nickname while they were team mates at Camel Yamaha.

There are other goats in other sports/fields, but Colin was the first to apply (as in 'coin') the term 'GOAT' with respect to Rossi in 2005.

Do NOT continue down this road, you two...

Comment, or don't comment, but personal attacks will just be deleted. 

Continuation will bring stronger responses.

Thanks for the douse of cold water, Rusty. I think I let the baiting get the best of my better judgement. (There's something about repeatedly being called an idiot that gets my hackles up.) MotoMatters is one of my favorite sites, partly because of the civil, informed and well reasoned comments; I apologize to David and my fellow readers for being drawn into this sophomoric exchange.

If Nick Hayden was in any of those guys shoes, he would have jumped on that #46 bike in a heartbeat. That's why everybody loves Nick Hayden. He's not much on the posturing. He just wants to take advantage of the chances he gets.

with all the articles and whatever else. I believe what I read from Nicky and being that he is right there with "CE" and an American himself and being friends with "CE". I'm going with this quote...You know, I'm not sure. I don't know why Colin turned it down. So to me it's sounds pretty rock solid that Nick knows first hand that "CE" didn't want that ride for whatever reason. I also have a gut feeling this will be Colin's last year in GP. I hope not but to me, It looks like the drive is no longer there.

I think Colin is a straight talker (as is Nicky), but I just can't imagine why he would turn it down. It was widely rumored that he would be doing it, and that Cal was asked to sub for Edwards. Then, suddenly, Cal was a no-go to Tech3, and Edwards was saying "0.0%". I can't see him voluntarily turning down such a great opportunity unless, like you say, he's really losing his drive. I hope he gets up to speed soon and lands a nice contract extension--he brings a lot to motoGP.

the concept of the bikes being very difficult to ride and why someone (however qualified,such as Bayliss) would be reluctant to climb on under these circumstances.As a career move,it could be seen as a bad situation. Colin's situation is his alone,I don't know his mind. My puzzlement is with the outright difficulty in just riding one,which Nicky touched on and has been stated repeatedly by Yamaha(and now Honda) as a reason for using test riders .What puzzles me is how Spies(for example) is able to blow in and ride wildcard races in the midst of an AMA season. He certainly was not familiar with the bikes,accounted himself well. This seems a contradiction. There are many reasons why a test rider makes sense,for both team and prospective replacement and the lack of familiarity with the behavior of the bike(tires,brakes,motor) seems unquestionably reasonable on the face of it.But the wildcard riders seem to fly in the face of the latter. Not proclaiming anything,but asking ??

Two years is a long time in MotoGP and the bikes are a whole lot faster than they were in 2008.

Spies results were a 14th at Donington, an 8th at Laguna and a 6th at Indianapolis - home tracks clearly helped his results.

What tyres was he on (can't recall if Suzuki ran Michelins) and how close were they to the feel of his AMA machine?

Lots of variables... and then there's the fact that he's Ben Spies. There's not a lot of domestic riders who could have done it as well as he did.

Spies arrived at the Red Bull Indy GP as the only rider with any time on the track.  He had been there at a 2-day tire test earlier in the summer (as a Bridgestone rider), and was the only race competitor to do so.

Because it rained during the race, that advantage was largely mitigated, but he still had more laps than anyone else at that point.

He is also under contract and riding for MZ in moto2. You just haven't seen him much because their budget is worth less than your shirt.

Trying to figure out why someone, or some company, didn't offer or accept an offer to ride a MotoGP bike is about as complex as understanding DNA or the (now defunct) theory of Evolution. You would have to know the intimate history of all the entities involved and their current situation with the other entities.

That said, unless Edwards knew that he wasn’t going to get 100 percent support from the FIAT team, I can’t understand how he could turn this unique (and I’m sure last) opportunity down.

And I think Crutchlow’s “safe” decision is / was the wrong one – for a lot of reasons.

It's all very well to say the CE11 turned the Fiat ride down. But what exactly was he offered? Obviously he would then have to use Rossi's engines. But how many of them and in what state of tune? To my mind this would have the biggest bearing of all his respect to Colin's decision. Engines are gold to a rider this season and I would be pretty confident in saying that Rossi and Burgess are going to hoard theirs even during this extended layoff period.

A nice bit of perspective from Nicky though with his Bayliss quote. Certainly a point the more imformed contributors have been aware of during this period of speculation.