Motegi MotoGP: Nicky Hayden eyes more Ducati improvement

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Nicky Hayden is hopeful he can continue his Ducati improvement at the Twin Ring Motegi this weekend in the first Japanese MotoGP race he will contest not riding for Honda.

Despite a nightmare debut in Qatar for Ducati’s factory team, the American bounced back from a 130mph qualifying crash to finish the delayed night race in a respectable 12th place.

The 2006 world champion said he had learned a lot in the Qatar race, gaining information that had even surprised Bologna engineers about the performance of the new carbon fibre chassis GP9.

He told MCN: “Just doing a real long run on the bike and just riding for 45 minutes was what I needed.

“We gathered a lot of data on the bike and it changed a lot during the race, more than Ducati had ever seen before.”

The big performance change had come from the front-end, according to the Kentucky rider, who goes into this weekend’s Motegi race with only one podium finish at the Honda-owned track back in 2003.

“As the fuel load changed the bike stopped going near as deep in the stroke and the travel changed quite a lot on the front fork.

“It changed a lot in the fast corners and it started to steer easier and easier as I used fuel. I didn’t know what to expect in the race, but I certainly learned some stuff.

“It was hard to be too positive after that weekend but the team and I felt in some ways it was pretty positive because I went faster at the end of the race.

“And even though things were so tough that weekend, at least in the race I kept fighting and got a position on the last lap, almost two.”

Hayden at least arrived in the Far East close to 100 per cent fit after his body took a pounding in Doha.

He was badly winded after a heavy impact on his back in the high-speed qualifying high-side, and he also needed five stitches in his neck after smashing the screen of his Ducati GP9.

He added: “I’ve recovered quite good and from that side it is real positive. Sometimes with your back it can take a long time but I went home to see my doctor and nothing was really too bad.

“I didn’t really miss any training, so I’m looking forward to the weekend with no excuses on that front.”

A medical check earlier today though in the Motegi paddock had not allowed him to remove the five stitches in his neck, as had been expected.

“I was supposed to get them out but the Costa’s guys said they are not ready to come out.

“There doesn’t seem to be a problem but they said the stitches needed to stay in a bit longer, so I guess I’ve got to wait until next week, “said Hayden.
Did it feel strange being in Japan and not representing Honda?

“It seems a little bit more laid back and less manic. I’m not having to run around going to appearances or doing lots of autograph sessions.

“Maybe when I get to Mugello and Misano it will be a lot different,” said Hayden.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt