As strange as it sounds, this was the best 12th place finish of Nicky Hayden’s career.Hayden’s 100th grand prix didn’t go as planned on the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. An inordinate number of machine problems with his Ducati Marlboro Desmosedici GP09 limited track time in practice and in qualifying he made a mistake that punished him with a 128 mph high-side. The spill came late on Saturday night and he needed an injection for the race, both on Sunday, when it was originally planned, and again on Monday.When the race began, at 9:00 p.m. on a warm night in the desert, Hayden was out of sorts. He wasn’t sure if it was because he had a full 22-liter fuel load, but he was going nowhere at the back of the field, “and I was kind of just searching, almost using as a bit of a test, just trying stuff to get going. And then once I got a rhythm I got faster and faster as the race went on.”Hayden’s pace improved as the race progressed and his final lap was his fastest of the weekend. His late speed took him up to former teammate Dani Pedrosa, who he just missed passing by .36 secs. Twelfth, and 49 seconds behind Casey Stoner, his teammate who won the race, is nothing to crow about, but there were hopeful signs to take to Motegi in two weeks.”I know as crazy as it sounds: How can I try to take anything positive from the weekend?” he asked. “But we finished a lot better than we started. I know you make your own luck, but I really had a lot of bad luck this week, a lot of problems that you don’t normally have. Bikes, my own crash. But all things considered, I think in the race I got some good consecutive laps, also the team got some data, hopefully to understand why the bike got better. The position changes a lot with 22 liters of fuel. That’s a lot of weight.”I did my fastest lap of the weekend the last lap of the race. To have the oil leak,” a near catastrophe in Friday free practice, and not crash on that; there was so much oil. A 130 mph high-side. To get out of the first race OK and healthy, hopefully we can basically start again from today and try to build on this and move forward.”It would’ve been nice to nip Dani (Pedrosa) there. He was coming back. I’m sure he had a problem.” Pedrosa, who survived a ramming by San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alex de Angelis, was slowed by a front tire vibration in the late stages of the first half of the race.Hayden said the team gathered a lot of data “and the bike felt better and better in the fast corners as the bike went on and hopefully we can understand how the position changed with the fuel load.”A number of riders had tire problems, more with the front than the rear. But Hayden said “not for me, not at all. It was all so unknown; bike, tires. In Jerez, there we had planned on doing a race simulation and got rained out. And here we also was going to do a race simulation and then it was getting so cold at night it was dangerous and we quit it. So it was the first time I did full race distance with that bike and those tires. I’m glad we raced. I think it’ll help me for the future.”
Hayden Learns At Qatar
Paul Carruthers | Editor
Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.