Qatar test: Nicky Hayden boosted by fifth place

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Nicky Hayden might just be clicking with Ducati’s GP9 at the right time as he ended the Qatar night test with the fifth fastest time.

The Kentucky rider clocked a best lap of 1.57.225 just before 9pm to finish second best Ducati rider.

The 2006 world champion was only 0.3s slower than Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi at the close, though like the rest of the MotoGP field, he was humbled by team-mate Casey Stoner.

Hayden’s encouraging performance still saw him 1.481s slower than Stoner as the 2007 world champion shrugged off a final night crash to dominate proceedings.

Former Repsol Honda rider Hayden though was still satisfied with his own display as he spent more time evaluating Ducati’s new carbon fibre swingarm.

Ducati’s new factory GP9 already runs a radical new carbon fibre chassis and Hayden told MCN “I definitely feel like I’ve made some real progress, and to be honest I need to be getting closer to the sharp end with the first race coming up real quick.

“I felt better on the bike here and I’m glad that the first race is here than in Malaysia because of that. We made some changes to the bike that really helped me in the faster corners.

“It felt a lot more stable and I’m sure that is helped by the new swingarm.”

Unusually for Hayden, he stopped riding with 45 minutes of track time remaining as air and track temperatures dropped to just 14 degrees.

Hayden added: “The track after a certain time gets a bit dangerous to be honest. It’s not only the temperature dropping but the humidity comes up and makes it really difficult to get grip.

“I didn’t get to do as many laps as I would have liked because after 10pm there were a few crashes and I felt the smart move was to sit it out and be ready for Jerez.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt