Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden was an encouraging eighth fastest on the first steamy day of practice for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Encouraging, because he was faster in Friday’s first session this year than he was last year.”You know, this is one of the first times I can remember that I’ve been faster than I was on my Honda on the first day,” he said. “Yeah, normally we come here this time of year and the track’s not near as fast as when we test here. The track was quite clean and quite good. When we were here at the test they had a terrible patch in turn two, but yeah, the track was alright.”For much of the session the deficit to the leaders was 1.7 secs., but towards the end he dropped it to 1.4 and finally 1.246 secs. This, despite having the fourth slowest motorcycle on top speed.”I mean, I spent most of the whole session in the top ten and lately that’s been my big problem is I start so far back on Friday, so it wasn’t like we had a major breakthrough,” he said. “But we changed some stuff with the electronics here and it felt better. Definitely gave me a bit more feel and some feedback and I feel even more positive than it looks. So only less than three-tenths off fifth.”You know, it’s not spectacular, but I feel like we had a pretty decent start, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”The late session improvement came when he switched to the harder of the two rear Bridgestones. Like his teammate, Casey Stoner, Hayden was faster on the hard tire.Also like Stoner, Hayden was having trouble with front end chatter over the bumps and rear grip problems.”More the front over the bumps and, sure, grip is a problem always around here when it’s that hot. Grip is going to be a problem,” he said.A number of riders were complaining about a loss of power associated with the five engines for seven races regulation. Though the regulation had come into affect in Brno, the heat of this race, and the length of service of the engines, magnified the problem. For his part, Hayden wasn’t complaining about a loss of power, even though with a top speed of 186.60 mph, Hayden’s Ducati was the fourth slowest and well down on teammate Casey Stoner’s maximum speed of 191.382. Stoner was second fastest to Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, whose top speed was 192.314.”Here you lose a lot of time,” he said of the top speed deficit. “It’s not just one straightaway. They’re both two sixth gear long straightaways, so they’re going to try to check stuff.” Hayden said the team wouldn’t change the engine in that bike, adding, that he wasn’t “sure if it was the engine. But I got one more engine to go, I got one more fresh engine.”
Hayden Eighth on Day One
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.