Third in the morning, in his first outing in the rain with the pneumatic valve-engined Honda RC212V, Hayden was in the hunt for a front row spot until being dropped a few spots after time expired.
As it was, he qualified fourth, and first Michelin rider, behind Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi, and Chris Vermeulen.
“I’m disappointed not to be on the front row,” Hayden said. “I thought after this morning, I really had a good shot to be on the front row.”
With so much to test in two short hours of the rain, Hayden knew where the problems were. There’s an issue under acceleration in the middle of the corner and “getting the weight transfer to the back is a little bit of a problem, and also in the wet. So we’re working on that.
“But everything went pretty smooth. We are lucky it did rain today because if it does rain tomorrow, the bike is a little bit different to get used to. I mean, it didn’t take many laps, but there was a couple little laps to get used to the engine character in the rain.
“Not too bad; pretty positive really. I mean I was a little nervous last night that this thing might be unrideable in the rain. And when I first left the pits I thought, oh boy, this thing might be too much in the rain. But we made a few adjustments and it was OK.”
Hayden said it was tricky in the rain because of the slickness of the track, “but the last couple corners where you open the throttle and can pick it straight up, it’s not too bad. But some of the slower corners, turn one and seven, and places where you kind of crack the throttle, it’s hard to get some transfer there.
“But I’m happy with it. Like I said, I was a little bit unsure how it was going to be in the rain. But it was alright. And this morning with the heavier rain sure is better for us and Michelins, I mean, that’s where I think this morning we had an edge, but we still do need to work a bit on the kind of drying conditions.”
The rain might have helped with fuel consumption, an issue that remains a question mark.
“We certainly could’ve did some more, if it is dry tomorrow, some more time to work out some fuel numbers and also just set-up,” he said. “You know, every other time I rode the bike there’s been problems.” Hayden said Friday was the first time he rode it for a full day with no problems. “So, sure, I’m not the only guy who could’ve did with more time, but certainly a bit more time would have been helpful to work out fuel consumption.
“Also tire life and stuff. But you know we took the risk to try it on a race weekend, knowing that the way things are going, only in Qatar, have we not lost a session to rain. That was part of the gamble. We got two sessions, so they ought to be able to work out a little something.”