Qatar test: Nicky Hayden quickest after desert storm

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Factory Ducati rider Nicky Hayden ended a weather-hit opening night of testing in Qatar with the fastest time.

The American posted the best time of 2.00.717 in his 31-lap run to edge out Marco Melandri, the man he replaced alongside Casey Stoner at Ducati.

Melandri completed more laps than anybody on the Hayate branded factory Kawasaki ZX-RR with a best time of 2.00.867 as early rain left lap times five seconds off the pace of last year’s race.

It was his first outing since a test in Phillip Island at the end of November and marked a shock return for ‘Kawasaki’, which had suspended its MotoGP racing activities because of the global economic crisis on January 9.

The paddock was stunned just 50 minutes into the test when a heavy rain shower struck, forcing the session to be immediately red flagged to avoid any vision issues with the spectacular Losail International Circuit floodlights.

The track appeared to dry within 30 minutes, but the rain had been at its heaviest between turns 11 and 16. And with no sun and no wind, there was no further action for nearly four hours. Humidity keeping moisture in the air was also slowing down the drying process.

Damp patches were still present when some riders opted to venture back out on track at 10.35pm, though lap times were five seconds off the pace of last year’s race when the track closed at midnight.

Mika Kallio was third fastest with British rider James Toseland ending the opening night in ninth.

The Tech 3 Yamaha rider was desperate to restore his confidence and get in some crucial development laps on the new YZR-M1 after his torrid start to 2009 in Sepang last month.

Toseland suffered a 125mph high-side in the Far East, but he only managed seven laps tonight and didn’t even leave the pits after 6.30pm.

Fiat Yamaha duo Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo only completed one lap each.
Former world champion Casey Stoner, veteran Italian Loris Capirossi and Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa didn’t even bother donning their leathers.

Spaniard Pedrosa though is still struggling with the left knee surgery he underwent in December and his team said he was still not 100 per cent fit.

The triple world champion tested in Sepang last month but left with one day remaining because of the troublesome knee.

1 Nicky Hayden, Ducati – 2’00.717
2 Marco Melandri, Hayate – 2’00.867
3 Mika Kallio, Ducati – 2’01.020
4 Alex De Angelis, Honda – 2’01.074
5 Niccolo Canepa, Ducati – 2’01.328
6 Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki- 2’01.843
7 Yuki Takahashi, Honda – 2’03.221
8 Andrea Dovizioso, Honda – 2’03.233
9 James Toseland, Yamaha – 2’03.417
10 Randy De Puniet, Honda – 2’03.580
11 Colin Edwards,Yamaha – 2’03.652
12 Toni Elias, Honda – 2’08.637
13 Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Team 2’24.832

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt