Jun 19, 2002
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Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>By Bruce Wilkins<BR><BR>Good news/bad news was the order of the final day of testing for Nicky Hayden at Virginia International Raceway. The young AMA Superbike lion blazed off consistent laps of 1:25.0, then just as he was edging into the uncharted timing territory of the 1:24s, he lost the front end coming out of Turn 17, lowsiding his Honda into a resulting pile of rubble. Hayden was unhurt in the incident and left the testing session near mid-day.<hr noshade size="1" width="450" align="left"><img src="../issues/jun02/nicky2.jpg"><hr noshade size="1" width="450" align="left">"Nicky did a bunch of laps in the mid 25s yesterday, and today he was doing a bunch of flat 25s," said Ray Plumb, Crew Chief/Coordinator for the Honda team. "It looked like he was just about ready to crack into the 24s when he lost the front end...he probably just pushed the front end and low-sided. He ran really well this week, we got the bike set up good, and we'll be ready for here in August."<hr noshade size="1" width="450" align="left"><img src="../issues/jun02/nicky1.jpg"><hr noshade size="1" width="450" align="left">Despite a large lead in the point standings with only six races remaining, Plumb is not the least bit overconfident of Honda wrestling the Championship title away from Suzuki. "It's still a long-time to go and you have to be careful, but at the same time, you have to race to win," Plumb said. "I don't care how many points your team can be ahead...at this stage, you can NEVER have enough points."<BR><BR>The overall testing for Honda went well in many categories, he added. Miguel Duhamel spent a lot of time yesterday regaining his feel for the Supersport CBR600F4i. "Our plan is for Miguel to race the 600 at Laguna Seca, but probably not here at VIR," Plumb said. "We're just getting him up to speed on it...he hadn't ridden it since Daytona, so we thought it would be a good idea to come here (with the 600) and test to get ready for Laguna Seca. Miguel's a 600 connoisseur, that's for sure."<BR><BR>Erion Honda's Formula Xtreme and 600cc Supersport rider Mike Hale showed up for the last day of practice, his first time ever at VIR. "On a track like this on a 600cc bike, you really have to ride the bike hard, but you also have to get the bike set up to handle because you have these off cambers, positive cambers, ups, downs...I mean it really puts a premium on set-up," said Hale. "This track is really challenging and it's pretty tight. It'll probably be difficult to do a lot of passing, so you're really going to have to play your cards right here."<BR><BR>Defending AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin had a solid testing session and consistently had fast laps times on all three days. "I think Nicky might have done a couple of pretty quick ones, but I think we were right there," Mladin pointed out. "I had a couple of 25.3s, 25.4s, but we're consistently in the 25s which is right on what the pole positions were last year, so we clearly picked it up a bit."<BR> <BR>After starting the season off with a serious crash, a damaged elbow and no Daytona, Mladin believes he is finally getting back to his former groove that made him a consistent podium threat, especially in his last three Championship years. "I managed to get really comfortable on the bike again, starting to get a bit more confidence back, you know," he said. "I'm really looking forward to these last few races."