With the introduction of the limit of 6 MotoGP engines for the entire season, the significance of engine blowups has suddenly skyrocketed. Where previously bikes ending a practice session in a cloud of oily smoke attracted merely curiosity, and perhaps wry amusement, now, every sign of failure is jumped upon and examined in minute detail.
So when Nicky Hayden pulled up on Friday morning at Assen, with a whiff of smoke trailing from his Marlboro Ducati, speculation began in earnest as to the nature and the cost of the event. When Hayden spoke to the press early on Friday evening, the first questions he fielded were on the subject of his blown motor.
"We think we lost an engine this morning," Hayden admitted, though he rejected suggestions it was a cause for great concern. "We haven't really gotten it apart to have a look, but it wasn't like a real fresh one. If I do have to lose one, it's not so bad. I still had a little time left on it, but it was almost finished anyway," the Marlboro Ducati rider told the press.
With stripping down the sealed engine to examine the damage against the rules, one senior journalist asked how they could tell how severe the damage is. "Well, you can see it on the data," Hayden explained. "You can do some stuff on the engines, you can take the clutch out, take the exhausts out and look around in there." Hayden admitted that there was not much physically you could do, but there were still plenty of ways of determining the state of the engine. "You could take it and run it on the dyno or something. You know, there's so many sensors on there, if the pressure goes or something, you pretty well know."
The follow up question turned to the question of performance, and the difference between used and fresh engines. Could he feel the difference between a fresh engine and a tired one, Hayden was asked. "The more miles on the engine, the more you lose power, especially ones tuned like this, Hayden conceded. "But we don't have a big drop off in power. But sure, the engines get tired, so we use it on Friday, not race it. The problem I had today with that engine, was the one I raced in Silverstone. So it could have happened yesterday, so I was right there on the verge."
As for the cause of the failure, that was not yet clear. "They have no idea what the failure was." The incident looked worse than it might potentially actually be, as Hayden had taken precautions to avoid any further damage to the motor. "I lost power so I just shut it off," Hayden said. "If it was a sensor or something, I just coasted in. I didn't want to try and ride it in if the engine wouldn't run."
What is clear is that the new rules have forced the teams to examine the way they use the engines, and devise strategies to deal with them. The teams are learning as they went, Hayden explained. "It's still new to us," Hayden said. "It's still early for the engines."