Throughout a turbulent recent history at Ducati, one thing that has not been shaken is Nicky Hayden’s unrivalled optimism.
The popular Kentucky rider's optimisim certainly showed no sign of fading under the Losail International Circuit floodlights in Qatar tonight as Hayden spoke of Ducati’s bid to slash the performance gap to rivals Honda and Yamaha ahead of the 2013 season opener on Sunday.
Hayden endured the worst season of his long and distinguished MotoGP career in 2012 when he failed to score a single rostrum.
Ducati’s slide into midfield mediocrity also saw Italian icon Valentino Rossi fail dismally to make the struggling factory Desmosedici competitive.
Rossi left to re-join Yamaha but 2006 world champion Hayden remains on the Bologna contender convinced that better times lie ahead in the future.
Following the disastrous two-year stint with Rossi, new owners Audi instigated a major management reshuffle in the winter, which saw long-serving technical guru Filippo Preziosi axed and Bernhard Gobmeier and Paolo Ciabatti were drafted in to lead the recovery mission.
The Desmosedici remains largely the same spec as it was when Rossi and Hayden struggled so badly on it in 2012, but major changes are afoot and Ciabatti recently told MCN a revamped GP13 should be ready to test by the end of late June or early July.
Hayden’s faith in Ducati certainly hasn’t been snuffed out by the recent lack of success and in Doha this afternoon he said: “We know it is not going to be easy at the moment with the level very, very high. You can’t just show up overnight and make a couple of clicker changes and find one second.
It is going to take a lot of work but I can seem some positives coming. At this level you don’t just change everything at once. One little change doesn’t make a difference. It is bike, rider, electronics and chassis that have to be improved. We need to open up our horizons and not waste time chasing half-tenths. We need to make some real changes and make some real gains.
I have no doubt it can happen. Ducati has made competitive bikes before and won races and the championship. Right now they are up against it but I have no doubt they can deliver.”
For full coverage of the Qatar season opener, see the April 10 issue of MCN.