Whether they will admit it or not, hate fuels a lot of riders in terms of motivation.
It's not uncommon in any professional sport for simple sporting animosity to mushroom into thinly veiled hatred and motorcycle racing is no different. Especially where a championship is concerned. Who can forget Flyin' Fred Merkel's helmet in 1989 World Superbike racing, the one with the words "You want blood? You've got it!" Painted in very large letters on it while Merkel battled Bimota's Davide Tardozzi for the world championship? Or Merkel and then Honda team-mate Wayne Rainey's abhorrence of each other in the mid-1980s? The two raced for the same team but and didn't let anything stand in their way of the championship.
Question: how do you fire up the hatred machine deep in your gut, though, if the rider you're battling with for the title, the guy you have to put away, is your brother?
That's a question two of the Hayden brothers might be asking themselves tonight as they are a scant thirteen points from one another-and are both brothers and team-mates-for the 600 Supersport championship. Currently, elder brother Tommy Hayden leads youngest brother Roger Lee with two races remaining.
For Roger Lee, he seems to be taking the race weekend as it comes, trying to find a decent set-up on both bikes, knowing he has to pull something out soon if he is to win the championship.
"We're struggling a little," said the youngest of the Hayden clan tonight. "Actually, it's going okay. We went better on the big bike (Superstock 1000) today than we did the 600, but we definitely did not set the world on fire on either bike. We just went the wrong way on the 600 and I led the guys down a bad set-up and really wasn't riding my best. So, tomorrow we're going to go back and try some stuff we know works."
Hayden isn't comfortable on the 600 in one section of the Road Atlanta track. "It's the new chicane," he explained. "I'm losing like six-tenths (of a second) there and one of my guys, Chris, went up and watched me in practice and I'm making the thing into too many corners and using too much time to go through there. Other guys are doing it in one move, while I'm using four. I need to fix that."
The championship bout between himself and his brother is weighing heavily on Hayden's mind. "It's so important to get a good result here and hopefully get a few guys between me and Tom (brother Tommy Hayden). That's a tall order, but it's what we've got to try for."
I asked him to assess the situation as he sees it.
"This season Tom's riding the best he has in his career," Hayden confided about his championship rival. "He's really stepped it up this year and so have a few other guys this weekend. Spies is really going good."
The question remains, if the motivation to beat your rival is shadowed in hate, how do you accomplish that if the fellow is your brother?
"I really don't work that way," Hayden said. "In fact, we never even talk about it, the championship. I had a bad test at Virginia last month and believe it or not Tom was trying to talk me through it, tryin' to help me. He was like, 'Don't worry about it, just ride and enjoy yourself'."
There is five years difference between Tommy and Roger Lee (21-26), and the former says that until this season they have never been that close, even though they are brothers.
"We were never that close, honestly. I think it was just the difference in our ages; he was always faster and doing things and I was sort of just trying to keep up, you know? Nick was my buddy when we were kids and Tom was just sort of this guy blitzing us whenever he got on a bike."
"But, now, we get along better than ever. This year, for some reason, has really brought us together. We have been talking on the phone every day and we rode to the tests together this year, and that's really something, coming from how distant we were."