Nicky Hayden admitted he expected to be faster and more competitive on Ducati’s new GP11.1 machine, as he kicked off preparations for his home race in Indianapolis by clocking the eighth best time.
The 2006 world champion set a quickest time of 1.41.789 to outpace factory Ducati team-mate Valentino Rossi, who finished outside the top 10 in 11th place.
But the Kentucky rider was still 1.065s adrift of Casey Stoner’s best pace and he told MCN: “It wasn’t spectacular and the track in the first session was obviously slick and dirty, just like any new track.
"But it got a lot better and came in pretty quick in the afternoon. In a couple of corners it was getting fun but it is the first day on the new bike and it took me a little bit of time to get up to speed. In some areas we’re not sure how this bike reacts completely, so I can’t say I’m thrilled.
"I’m eighth fastest and I knew it would be tough coming to my home track and I didn’t realistically think I was going to come in and win, but I hoped to be more competitive than I am today. I’m still a second off but that’s the way it goes.”
Hayden said lapping faster than Rossi was a small confidence boost but he said he needed to improve the front-end feeling with the GP11.1, which features a new swingarm, seamless shift gearbox and rear suspension system.
Hayden added: “It is better to be in front of him (Rossi) than behind him but I want to be closer to the front. It helps ease the pain a little bit but I want to be at the front.
"I can’t get the bike to steer and I need to get some weight on the front to get the bike to steer and go around some corners.
"A couple of those fast corners I’m having to use the brake to get the weight to transfer, but you’d ideally like to roll off the throttle and have some pitching.”