Qatar test: Nicky Hayden talks top spot

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Nicky Hayden believes the opening night of testing in Qatar was not a waste of time as the American topped the timesheets on Ducati’s carbon fibre chassis GP9.

The Kentucky rider clocked the best time of 2.00.717 to just beat Italian Marco Melandri on an opening night badly disrupted by an early rain shower.

It left some sections of the track damp for several hours and prevented any of the 14 riders that did venture out of the pits from getting close to the 1.55 bracket set by six riders during last year’s historic first night race under floodlights.

Hayden though still believes his 31-lap stint was a worthwhile exercise as he continues the tough challenge of trying to adapt to Ducati’s GP9.

Speaking to MCN, the 2006 world champion said: “It was a shame about the weather. I’ve only ever seen it rain once here before and at the end of my first run I thought, ‘man that sure looks like rain’ and it caught me off guard a little.

“But I’d say we still learnt some stuff even though we were five seconds off the pace. And it was really only a couple of corners where it was wet. It certainly wasn’t perfect conditions because there has been so much wind that the track was quite dirty.

“But we worked through a few things because we are running out of time and I’ve got a lot of work to do, so it was a useful few laps. I tried a couple of starts and from the laps I did I learned that the front was too stiff and we needed some softer springs.

“Right on line it was a bit wet but after we did a few laps there was a little bit of a dry line but those corners are pretty wild on a good lap with the grip you get on qualifiers so it was a little bit sketchy.”

To help identify which parts of the track were wet, Hayden reverted to a clear visor on his Arai helmet, though he normally uses a tinted visor to help deflect the glare of the floodlights.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt