Nicky Hayden hailed Valentino Rossi’s brilliant return to MotoGP action today after the American enjoyed an upturn in his own fortunes at the Sachsenring.
The American finished opening practice with the third quickest time, the 2006 world champion leaving his attack late after he was largely anonymous for much of the session.
Hayden surged into the top three with just over 50 seconds of the session remaining, his best time of 1.22.983 relegating fellow American Ben Spies back down to third.
He ended up just 0.188s slower than factory Ducati team-mate Casey Stoner but heaped praise on Rossi after the Italian finished seventh quickest on his much anticipated comeback from the broken right leg that forced him to miss the last four races.
Hayden told MCN: “What is there to say about that guy? I’m not sure he believes that the title is completely over. He wants to fight until it is mathematically over and stranger things have happened.
"On one hand he makes it harder for us. I’d be lying if I said sometimes I like to be in front of him but it is better for the series and for the show when he’s here. It is good to have him back and you can almost feel it in the paddock.
"It shows a lot when he’s a nine-times world champion and over 100 points back yet he’s back on crutches. Nobody can question whether or not he still wants it.”
Hayden was delighted with his own progress too having suffered a mini-slump in results.
He hasn’t finished in the top six at the last two races and he said: “Towards the end I started to feel pretty good and it was an important hour with tomorrow looking like a good chance of rain, probably at least for one session.
"At least I’ve got a good direction and I’ve tried both tyres. It’s not a bad start and better than the one I made in Barcelona. But I was third on the first day in Assen too so I need to wait until Sunday. But I need a result here.
"Our bike normally goes well here. It is weird because in T2, normally our bike in tight and twisty stuff is not that great but Casey and I are really quick through there. So that is a bit strange.”
With weather forecasts predicting showers and storms for tomorrow, the former Repsol Honda rider said he preferred conditions to remain dry after his encouraging start to preparations for Sunday’s 30-lap race.
The 28-year-old said: “Right now I’m third with a pretty good feeling with the bike, so I’m not looking forward to rain. Normally when you’re out of options and 12th is when you start doing the rain dance.
"Right now I want it to stay dry but Barcelona on Saturday night I was hoping for rain. I’m not that desperate yet. I’m kind of looking forward to riding in the rain.
"Some said last year we couldn’t get through a day without rain but this year we’ve had none. It can be cold and wet and miserable but in some ways it is a different challenge.”