Nobody knows better than Nicky Hayden what it takes to win at Laguna Seca and the American has already installed track newcomer Marc Marquez as favourite for Sunday’s US MotoGP victory.
The Spaniard quickly got to grips with the California track yesterday when he set the fastest time in practice having never lapped Laguna Seca before.
A lap of 1.22.040 put him 0.229s clear of German Honda rival Stefan Bradl and it was hard to find anybody surprised with the reigning Moto2 world champion’s stunning early pace.
Hayden, who triumphed in his home race back in 2005 and 2006, said it was an impressive achievement for the 20-year-old to show up and be so immediately fast on what is a short but technically demanding track.
Marquez is looking to increase his slender two-point lead in the championship over struggling Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was only 11th on the combined timesheets as he struggles with a fractured left collarbone he injured a week ago in Germany.
Hayden, who is being released by Ducati’s factory squad at the end of the season, told MCN: “I'm not shocked that he is fastest on the first day and it is very impressive. Right now he is favourite for the race. It is not an easy track but he makes it look very easy.”
Nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi had joked during last weekend’s Sachsenring race that Marquez would be instantly fast and competitive in Laguna Seca and he was proved right.
The 34-year-old, who was fourth fastest and just over 0.3s adrift of Marquez, said: “I am surprised but not fully surprised. Like I said he is a f*****g b*****d but I hope he needs a little bit more and he is more of a b*****d than I thought. This track is good for his style and is good for Honda but he is impressive. Here Marc is riding the Honda in the right way, he is able to turn with the slide and pick up the bike and ride similar to (Casey) Stoner who was always very, very fast here in Laguna.”