Nicky Hayden says his prime focus in Japan this weekend will be to build up his confidence after a crash and injury-hit spell in the 2012 MotoGP world championship.
The luckless American missed the Brno clash at the end of August after suffering a double break in his right hand in a qualifying crash in Indianapolis that also ruled him out of his home round.
The 2006 world champion then damaged the radius bone in his right wrist when he suffered a horrific crash in the early stages of the recent Motorland Aragon race in Spain.
Hayden saved a front-end slide but was then sent careering off track at high speed. Unable to stop his factory Ducati GP12, Hayden slammed into a trackside advertising board and was catapulted at over 40mph onto the perimeter road.
Miraculously he escaped serious injury and despite the damage to his wrist, he will race at the Twin Ring Motegi this weekend.
The former Repsol Honda rider said: “Certainly I was lucky to get away without too much damage but I did pick up an injury in my wrist. My hand is pretty much healed but my wrist is a little issue.
"I have pretty good strength in it and hopefully it won’t be a big problem. Motegi has never been my best track. I like it but I’ve never got on with it on the Ducati, so hopefully it will change.
"I need to get a little momentum going and a little confidence back because it has not been an easy period for me missing some races and some crashes, so I need to recover some confidence and have a bit of fun.”
Hayden’s Aragon crash immediately raised debate about changes required to make the final corner safer.
The topic was raised during a rider briefing earlier today in Japan but will be discussed in greater detail in tomorrow’s Safety Commission meeting.
Hayden added: “That corner could obviously use some improvements. In a normal situation if you just crash you are probably ok, but I had a big moment and lost the front. But I saved it and that was my downfall.
"It was not a good situation because there was AstroTurf, gravel trap, pavement and then grass, so at that speed it all happened really fast. But to be fair my situation was not something that you can plan for. Hopefully that can be improved because certainly we need to do a better job there.”
Hayden’s factory Ducati teammate Valentino Rossi said the most obvious solution to prevent a repeat of the incident would be to have air fence installed.
The Italian, who is a prominent member of the Safety Commission, told MCN: “It is very dangerous when you don’t crash and easier when you do. When you crash you can predict where the bike is going. But if you don’t crash like Nicky it is difficult to understand where the bike is going and the speed is very high.
"Minimum they need the air fence in that point. Nicky was very lucky and a lot of people say why didn’t he lay the bike down? But he didn’t have time. When you are on the bike you think f**k, f**k maybe I can stop. But no way.”