Nicky Hayden made progress on Saturday but went backwards.Following an encouraging sixth place in Friday practice, the Ducati Marlboro rider qualified 13th, one spot lower than his season best. Hayden would certainly have been farther up the grid had he not crashed on his fast lap in the waning minutes of Saturday’s session, held in 100 degree heat at the Circuit de Catalunya north of Barcelona.Now he’ll have to start back on row five and hope that he can work his way forward, while also keeping an eye on his tires and fuel consumption. The new electronics package that has improved his performance and spirits come with a cost; increased fuel consumption. And the tires, even the extra-hard dual compound rear Bridgestone, isn’t expected to survive the withering heat.Hayden’s best lap of 1:43.414 was less than three-tenths off the mark set by the fifth fastest rider, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Toni Elias.”We were happier yesterday for sure,” Hayden said. “This morning was able to go and I went a half a second faster, but everybody else went a lot faster too, as you would expect. And this afternoon wasn’t great, but we were in there competitive. And then with my last qualifier, pushing turn one, turn two, I crashed. It’s always ‘what ifs and buts?’ but I would like to think I coulda went maybe tenths faster and a couple tenths woulda been a big step. But that’s ifs and buts.”In explaining the crash, Hayden said he went into the turn one right, then the turn two left and the rear stepped out, pitching the weight to the front “and that was that. That’s how she ended, in the gravel.”I knew I was going to have to really push hard to get a couple more tenths, but I felt I could get a couple more tenths. I wasn’t just real happy with the front when I put in my last hard front. You either slow down and go backwards on the grid or keep pushing or keep pushing and pretend you don’t feel the front pushing, but she got me.”Sunday was going to be a race of conservation he said, because the rear tire performance drops off quickly, “and around here you lose a lot of time quick. All those long right-handers, if you start backing it off….it’s not like little hairpin corners where you just pick it up and drive. I mean, you’re on the side of the tire in turn three for probably 15 seconds, almost.”In qualifying third fastest, teammate Casey Stoner said he liked the new electronics package, because it calmed down the GP09. A lot more cuts, was the phrase he used. But he feels he doesn’t interfere with his riding like the old electronics.”Yeah, that’s exactly what it does,” Hayden said. “Those cuts, they do hurt fuel consumption, so we’ve got to check. But one thing is it cuts less on the exit, so I’m using the rear brake a lot less to control the pumping. So, hopefully it’ll balance out the extra fuel I use from the cut, I’ll gain from not using so much rear brake.”
Hayden Falls Backwards
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.