Nicky Hayden will not line up as hoped next month alongside Jared Mees, Brad Baker, Marc Marquez, Troy Bayliss and the rest of the star-studded international field at the Superprestigio in Barcelona, Spain. His doctor told the 2006 MotoGP world champion earlier this week that participation in the short-track invitational at the Sant Jordi Arena could aggravate his recently operated-on right wrist.
“After watching Superprestigio last year and seeing how much it fun it looked, I would have liked to do it,” Hayden said. “I had spoken to the promoter and sorted out a bike over there, but after my end-of-year check-up with the doctor, we decided to give my wrist some better time to recover.”
In July, Southern California surgeon Dr. James Chao performed a proximal row carpectomy with radial styloidectomy, removing several bones from Hayden’s troublesome joint. The Drive M7 Aspar rider missed five of this year’s 18 races, returning for the final four rounds in Japan, Australia, Malaysia, and Spain. His best post-op finish was 10th at Phillip Island.
Goals prior to the surgery were three-fold: 1) increased range of motion; 2) improved strength; and 3) reduced pain. According to Hayden, all three objectives have already been met. Additional therapy over the winter months may further enhance strength and range of motion.
“Before the surgery,” he said, “I got to the point where, last race or two, it was really locked. I haven’t really done therapy this past month, but for a while I was getting between 30 and 35 degrees. I would like to get to 45.”
Hayden knew the mid-season stop at the Sachsenring—a predominantly left-hand track—could be his final race. “I try not to talk like that,” he said, “but it crossed my mind.” Hayden even flew his father to Germany for the event. “I told him I found a cheap ticket. ‘Oh, really, a cheap ticket? I’ll go.’”
Arthroscopy earlier in the year in Italy paid few dividends, Hayden admitted. “When I came out of surgery, the doctor was like, ‘The bones are dead. I cleaned it up and did some stuff, but there was nothing I could do.’” Prior to his most recent surgery, Hayden made clear he did not want his wrist fused. “I said, ‘Don’t do something while I’m asleep that’s going to end my career.’”
With more than two months before the first MotoGP tests in Malaysia, Hayden is hopeful for the future. At the final race of the year in Valencia, Honda announced that Hayden’s teammate, Hiroshi Aoyama, would take on a new test-rider role in 2015. His first task was to shake down the RC213V-RS, a next- generation pnemuatic-valve version of the RC 1000V customer machine that he and Hayden raced all season.
All weekend, Aoyama posted speeds that, on average, were within five mph of the fastest factory Honda.Hayden, meanwhile, was another six-plus mph slower on a track with no long straights. “For my style,” he said, “I think the speed is going to help me even more. Hiro runs different electronics—smoother power, more 250-style. For me, after the first session, it’s maximum power pretty much everywhere.” In 2015, Hayden will pair with World Superbike recruit Eugene Laverty.
Hayden realizes his best days are behind him. At Valencia, the long-time factory rider had problems with his Honda’s brakes, due in part to a race-ending spill at Sepang. “It’s the end of the season,” Hayden said, referring to budgeting realities. “That is the first time in my MotoGP career I’ve had to deal with something like that. But I like this team. They try hard.”