Interview: Roger Lee Hayden

World Superbike welcomes the youngest member of the Hayden racing clan.


Cycle World

Cycle World

John Gardner, media manager at Miller Motorsports Park, recently hosted what is likely to be the first of many teleconferences with riders and prominent personnel from World Superbike. The idea, of course, is to promote the Utah round of the series, which will be held this year over Memorial Day Weekend, with the actual Superbike and Supersport races scheduled, uniquely, on Monday, May 31.

Gardner's first guest was Roger Lee Hayden, younger brother of Tommy and Nicky Hayden. Hayden is racing this season for the Pedercini Kawasaki Team. This is not completely uncharted territory for Hayden; he previously raced a Kawasaki ZX-10Rin AMA Superbike, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, at MMP in 2007. When we spoke with him, Hayden had just returned from his first test with the Italian team in Portimão, Portugal.

Roger Lee Hayden is racing this season with Team Pedercini Kawasaki in World Superbike. He is looking forward to the challenge.

Making the move to World Superbike: I went to Miller last year and talked to a bunch of teams. Lucio Pedercini contacted my manager, Chuck Aksland, about riding for his team, but I had already verbally committed to a Moto2 team. The Moto2 thing fell through, and I ended up with Pedercini Kawasaki, which I'm really happy about. I've always been a huge fan of World Superbike, watching Carl Fogarty and those guys battling it out, two races a day. It always looked like a fun, competitive series. I always pulled for Noriyuki Haga. It was kind of weird when he went by me the other day while we were testing. Everyone who works at WSB introduced themselves. It was pretty nice compared to where I came from last year. I spent some time with Chris Vermeulen and Johnny Rea; they are both super-nice guys. They seemed laid back, and I could cut up with them.

Testing with Pedercini at Portimão: The test itself went okay. I wish it would have gone a little better, but the weather wasn't that good. Toward the end, we started making some progress. I've never ridden on Pirellis. I've been on Dunlops, I believe, for the last 12 years. Even before I turned professional, Dunlop was sponsoring me. The Pirellis definitely have a little different feel but nothing scary. I thought they were good. I tried to get to know the team. A couple of the guys speak a little bit of English, but I speak zero Italian. I can't really talk to them; they don't understand me, and I don't understand them. But they're real nice, and it's a friendly atmosphere.

Kawasaki ZX-10R: I'd been off the bike since New Jersey, so I was a little rusty, but the bike felt like all the others I've ridden. A few things were different, but some of the things I remember struggling with when I rode the factory bikes in the AMA were the same. I was getting more comfortable, so we're going to move more in that direction. We want to develop the bike. Kawasaki is putting a lot of money and effort into the World Superbike program. I don't think they're going to slow down development. They haven't had a great run lately. But they haven't had a factory effort. They've been pushing MotoGP and put a lot of effort into the American series. Now, there's no MotoGP team, no team in the U.S., so they're focused on World Superbike, and I think that's going to help.

New racetracks: It's part of the learning curve. We've tested at Portimão, and we will test at Valencia and Phillip Island. I love Miller, especially the first three corners. It has more of the "world" track feel to it: big, fast and flowing. And it's safe. The facilities are really nice, too.

Travel: I think it's going to be hardest on my mom and dad. Some weekends—actually, a lot of weekends—we all three race. My dad just opened a new car lot, so they're pretty busy. I think it will be exciting for all of us because nobody in the family has raced World Superbike. When Nicky went to MotoGP, it was me and Tommy. If I ever needed something or had a problem, I always had an older brother to go to. Now, I'm not going to have anybody, really. It will just be me.

Personal performance expectations: A lot of people have high expectations, but World Superbike is not easy. The riders are all fast, and I think this year is one of the deepest, most competitive fields they've had in a long time. I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. My goal is to get a little bit faster as the year goes on, just keep learning and improving. My goal is to be in the top 10 by the end of the year. Ben Spies: What he did last year, the way he approached it, he didn't really change how he did it in America. He went over there, went fast straight away and didn't take any prisoners. I've talked to him about the tires and where he thinks I should live. He told me, anything I need, just give him a shout.

Kawasaki Japan: We have a really good relationship. I've tested all their production motorcycles for the last four to five years. We were their main production team for their ZX-6R and ZX-10R. I always went to their test facility in Japan, rode the bikes, told them what I thought. They asked me to do the USGP, and that went really well; it was the first time they had three riders in the top 10. It seems like they want to support me in my next step, too.

Physical fitness: For the most part, I have no complaints about my hand. I've changed my position on the bike because there's no pinky. For a while, I was getting blisters real bad. It's definitely not 100 percent, but it doesn't bother me on the bike or in life too much. There are a lot worse injuries.I'm as healthy as I've been in probably three or four years. I didn't have any injuries last year. I didn't have any end-of-the-season surgeries. I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. I'm going to need it, because I'm taking another challenge, and it's not going to be easy.