Nicky Hayden confident after Ducati debut

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American Nicky Hayden believes he can tame Ducati’s GP9 and crush the belief that only Casey Stoner can master the V4 machine.

Hayden’s long-waited debut for the Bologna factory ended with him claiming the 12th fastest time as he posted a best of 1.33.960 to finish in front of Sete Gibernau and Niccolo Canepa.

His time was 1.496s off the hugely impressive Stoner, who dominated the opening day of winter testing in Valencia yesterday.

The 27-year-old, who spent his entire premier class year in Honda’s official factory team, said: “I enjoyed it. I didn’t feel alien on the bike. I didn’t feel like I needed to tell them we got to have new handlebars and footpegs. But, sure, I have a lot of work to do. It’s not like I can call my dad and say, ‘Hey everything is okay. You can let the dogs out. We’re cool.’

“You’re not going to find me over there climbing up one of these tall buildings for a place to jump just yet either. It’s what I expected. I didn’t expect it was going to be easy and I didn’t expect it to be disastrous.

Obviously I’ve got a lot of work to do. I enjoyed the bike. There’s a lot of potential there. It is going take a lot get it out of it.”

Hayden did one run on the GP8 machine before he started testing the carbon fibre framed GP9, which was painted in a special Stars and Stripes paint scheme for the Kentucky rider.

Although he admitted he was nervous about his debut, Hayden said he been excited about the prospect of joining Aussie Stoner, who has won 16 races in 36 appearances for Ducati.

“Usually when you have to test on Monday after a race you have a hard time dragging yourself out of bed, but this was different. I’ve been waiting for this. I did one run on the GP8, just to get a feel for it and to get my impression of the two bikes, “said Hayden, who was impressed with the engine performance of the Ducati.

He added: “One of the things that really impressed me was the acceleration. I found myself pretty comfortable on the bike, and I really didn’t make a lot of changes to levers and handlebars.”

The test also gave Hayden the opportunity to get a taste of Bridgestone’s tyres and he said: “I tested with just two compounds, a soft and medium front and a medium and hard rear, and we didn’t have any trouble.

“I did about 30 laps on one rear and it was almost as good at the end as at the beginning. Of course, I’m two seconds off and when you get down to the real pace you find out a lot more, but I liked what I tried.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt