US MotoGP: Nicky Hayden expects to race old Ducati

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Nicky Hayden made his debut on Ducati’s new GP11.1 machine in Laguna Seca yesterday, but the American is unlikely to race the revamped Desmosedici in his home race.

The Kentucky rider clocked a best time of 1.23.195 to finish 10th fastest in opening practice, but he expects to ride the GP11 machine for the rest of the weekend.

Hayden was happy with the improvements on the GP11.1, which features a new swingarm, chassis and rear suspension system.

It also has a seamless shift gearbox, which Hayden loved, but not sufficiently enough to try race the bike on Sunday in front of his home supporters.

Hayden, who won at Laguna Seca in 2005 and ’06, said: “I rode both bikes in the first session and in the second I concentrated on the GP11.1. The GP11.1 clearly did some things better, especially in acceleration with the gearbox, but it wasn’t half-a-second better, which you always hope. It’s never that easy. It’s something I don’t know if we’re going to continue with. It wasn’t a big step, so maybe we’re better off just going with what we got even though we know we haven’t just been on fire with that either.”

Hayden said the big positive of the GP11.1 was the seamless shift gearbox, which Ducati rolled out to match the impressive performance of a similar system developed by Honda for the start of 2011.

When asked by MCN for his thoughts he said: “I love the gearbox. A lot of times you go out and test a different brake pedal or different rim, but this is a whole new step in technology and I’m sure it won’t be long before street bikes come with this gearbox because it’s that smooth and that slick. But it doesn’t make a huge difference on the lap time.”

Explaining how it felt to ride with the new system, he added: “It’s a lot lighter and a lot softer and it doesn’t cut the power as much when you accelerate. When you grab the next gear you feel a bit more push. And it’s definitely softer on the side. Places where you shift leaned over, it upsets the bike a lot less.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt