MotoGP Sepang test: Qualifying tyre spares Nicky Hayden's blushes

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A brilliant lap on a Michelin qualifying tyre spared Nicky Hayden and Honda’s blushes as the American left Sepang with the fastest overall time.

A best lap of 2.00.326 late on the final morning was good enough to beat 2007 world champion Casey Stoner by 0.334s.

But the impressive qualifying lap was a rare highlight at the end of a tough three-day session for Hayden and HRC.

With team-mate Dani Pedrosa sidelined by a broken right hand, the gloom wasn’t lifted as Hayden struggled for the third successive test to make any significant progress with Honda’s new pneumatic valve RC212V motor.

The Repsol Honda rider said: “Today’s gone a lot better than the last couple and we’re feeling positive, I feel like I’m a lot closer than I was a year ago here. This morning we checked the pneumatic valve engine, then we just focused on the standard engine and this year’s chassis, working on the general set-up.

“I used qualifiers for my fastest lap and they worked well. After that we did a batch of front tyres because one of my weak points here is that sometimes I struggle when this track gets hot. So I did a batch of tyres at the hottest part of the day to improve on that. 

“We hadn’t really tested any tyres for Michelin here until today and we wanted to do a long run. That run was decent, probably the best thing I’ve done all week. I did the best lap I’ve ever done round here on race tyres on lap 18, a 2m 01.6s.

“At the end of three long days that wasn’t too bad. I used a 16.5 on that run but I’ve also been trying some 16 rears here.  Now we go to Phillip Island, which is quite a different track with some long corners, some high-speed stuff and a lot of changes of direction.

“The big thing there is tyres so it’ll be really important to do some more tyre work with Michelin there. We will also do some more work with the pneumatic-valve engine. I’ve got faith in Honda, so hopefully they can make us proud. I think it’s going to be a good season, there’s a lot of guys going fast, a lot of guys motivated. It’s an exciting time, everyone’s at zero.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt