Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden showed up for the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi ready to race.The back and neck injuries he suffered in a vicious highside less than two weeks ago in Qatar have mostly healed. And, as much as the Qatar weekend was mostly a nightmare, with endless machine problems in addition to the highside, his perseverance was rewarded with the valuable knowledge of the Desmosedici GP9 he gained during the race.”I’ve recovered quite good and from that side it is real positive,” Hayden said in the Motegi paddock on Thursday afternoon. “Sometimes with your back it can take a long time, but I went home to see my doctor and nothing was really too bad. I didn’t really miss any training, so I’m looking forward to the weekend with no excuses on that front.”As he was thrown from the Desmosedici GP9, Hayden’s neck cracked the windscreen, inflicting a deep gash. The stitches were meant to come out this weekend, but doctors with the Clinica Mobile decided they should remain.”There doesn’t seem to be a problem, but they said the stitches needed to stay in a bit longer, so I guess I’ve got to wait until next week,” Hayden said.The rain-delayed Qatar GP was Hayden’s first extended run on the Ducati this year and what he learned was invaluable.”Just doing a real long run on the bike and just riding for 45 minutes was what I needed,” he said. “We gathered a lot of data on the bike and the position changed a lot during the race, more than Ducati had ever seen before.”As the fuel load went down, the GP9 “changed a lot in the fast corners and it started to steer easier and easier as I used fuel. I didn’t know what to expect in the race.”This will be Hayden’s first Japanese Grand Prix since he left Honda. Twin Ring Motegi is owned by Honda and two of Hayden’s bikes, his 2005 and World Championship-winning 2006 RC211V, are in the Honda Collection Hall on the grounds of the TRM complex. Honda is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their first point scored in Grand Prix racing, but Hayden won’t be taking part.”It seems a little bit more laid back and less manic,” he said. “I’m not having to run around going to appearances or doing lots of autograph sessions. Maybe when I get to Mugello and Misano it will be a lot different.”
Hayden Healthy in Japan
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.