Nicky Hayden has admitted it has been tough to be finishing so far off the pace in MotoGP after Ducati experienced a dismal first half of the season in 2011.
Hayden goes into his home race at Laguna Seca this weekend struggling for form as the Kentucky rider and team-mate Valentino Rossi have found it difficult to make this year’s Ducati a competitive force.
Hayden, who won his home race in 2005 and ’06, is currently seventh in the championship standings but he’s only finished inside the top six in three out of nine races.
The 2006 world champion said: "When you’re watching on TV or standing on the hill, it looks easy but when you get out there it’s not always so simple. I do like this track but I’ve got some other tracks that I like and I’ve sucked at, so we’ll see. The problem is the gap to the front has been so big this year. That’s what hurts the most because at times we’ve been so far away.
"We’ve got a lot of work to do if we want to have any fun on Sunday. It is not an easy moment for us but that is obvious for everybody. Everybody at Ducati is working really hard and my guys are really behind me and I still think we can do some good results this year. It is easy to jump on people when they are down but I stand behind this team and they can’t work harder. They are doing the maximum so sometimes unfortunately life isn’t a fairytale.
"It has been tough for the team and the sponsors but the morale on my side of the garage is fine. I don’t feel anybody wants to stay home at the weekend. Sometimes being the underdog can be fun. We’ll keep working and hopefully the other guys don’t improve too much. That’s really made it hard on us because some of the other guys have improved a lot and we’re not."
Hayden has three bikes in his Ducati garage this weekend, including of the new GP11.1 machines that Rossi has been using since the Assen round in Holland last month.
He said he would certainly complete some laps on the new bike before deciding whether to race it on Sunday or continue with the GP11 he’s used so far this season.
The GP11.1 has a new swingarm, chassis and rear suspension system but the radically revised Desmosedici hasn’t dramatically improved results for Rossi and the Italian scored his worst result of 2011 when he slumped to ninth in Germany.
Hayden said: "I have one of the new bikes so thanks to Ducati for making that available to me. I have two of my standard bikes but at some stage we’ll definitely do some laps on the new bike and see what I think. There a few things about it that has definitely got potential and it does some things better.
"But on the other hand we’re not here to test, it is a race so I don’t want to confuse the issue too much. But we want to give ourselves the best shot on Sunday to get a good result. Lately what we’ve got is not working, so it’s worth risking to try and find something a little bit better. Hopefully we can put up a lot better fight than I’ve been to do pretty much all year."