Jerez test: Nicky Hayden thrilled at big improvement

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American Nicky Hayden went into the long winter break in bullish mood after he clocked the sixth best time on the final day of testing in Jerez.

The 2006 world champion had cut a dejected figure in the paddock at the end of a tough opening day that left him languishing down in 10th and a massive 2.5s off the pace.

The former factory Honda rider though managed to slash his lap time by 1.5s yesterday as he clocked a best of 1.40.486 that left him quickest Ducati rider.

It also eased fears that Hayden might also struggle to adapt to the Ducati, which has previously left the likes of Loris Capirossi, Alex Barros and Marco Melandri flummoxed.

Watched again by injured 2007 world champion and team-mate Casey Stoner, Hayden completed 70 laps and he ended just a fraction over a second outside of Valentino Rossi’s quickest of 1.39.429.

The relief was written all over Hayden’s face and he told MCN: “I really needed today. I needed to have a back-to-back day where I could really get my head down and find the limit.

“In Valencia it had rained on the second day and when I saw those clouds coming in today I thought it was going to be tough. If I’d have left for nearly three months off the bike on the back of yesterday, it wouldn’t have been much of a Christmas. But we made a big step and I felt more comfortable and more importantly a lot faster.

“I feel like I’m getting to the find the limit of the Bridgestone front now but that said I still need a second. But it is nice to see some big progress and know we are moving in the right direction. Chasing that last second is always going to be tough but I’m ready to work at it.”

Hayden also paid tribute to Stoner, who attended the test at the request of Ducati to give his trackside impressions of the GP9.

The Aussie is sidelined until 2009 after he underwent an operation to repair a damaged left wrist that he first injured back in 2003.

“I’m really grateful to him for doing that because I’ve not exactly been used to that kind of stuff recently,“ said Hayden, who had a non-existent relationship with Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa. “He could have easily been sat at home all warm with his feet up on the sofa, but he stood out in the cold trying to help me and Ducati.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt