Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden made it through the first day of the Japanese Grand Prix without incident, a vast improvement on his troubled debut with the team in the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix.Which is not to say that everything went smoothly. Hayden struggled to the 12th fastest time, clocking his best on his final lap of an abnormally cold April afternoon. The lap of 1:50.393 was 1.848 seconds slower than the class-leading Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha), but had Hayden found another four-tenths he’d have been as high as seventh.Getting heat into both sides of the tires on the predominantly right-leaning track proved problematic for everyone and Hayden was no different. Last year he had the use of dual compound Michelin tires; today he was using a single compound Bridgestone, “and this is a track that, sure, normally you would want a dual-compound tires. There’s a lot more right-handers.”I mean, normally we have dual compound almost every race. They said this year we’re going to have dual compound at a couple of races, Sachsenring and Philip Island.And, given the troubles he had in Qatar, he was taking today step-by-step.”You know, I mean, the session wasn’t just spectacular,” he said. “Sure, we want to be closer. But actually things went smooth. In Qatar we had a lot of problems in the sessions and never was able to find a rhythm. But today, actually, was nice to be able to just work a bit on the bike and just be out there all 45 minutes without having to come in and out. We actually made a bit of progress. I know 12th don’t look good, but three-tenths or something, four-tenths I would have been competitive. So we realize we have to start… not going to achieve it all overnight. I got to start working at it.”With the lone shortened session, Hayden didn’t have time to test both Bridgestone tires. Like most everyone, he went with the softer rear tire. And even that one didn’t take heat easily early in he session. With rain forecasted for Saturday, this may be the only dry session prior to Sunday’s second race of the MotoGP World Championship. He said “if it’s going to be dry Sunday and wet tomorrow it would’ve been nice to try both tires. And was originally the plan, but it was so cold and so already on the limit for getting heat in it, that I felt I better stay on the soft tire for safety.”
Hayden Gets Through Day One Unscathed
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.