Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden finished a season best tenth, not where he expected to be this year, but at least a step in the right direction.Hayden arrived in Spain hoping to turn his season around, and he did briefly on Friday afternoon. Sixth in the first practice put a smile back on his face, but it was short-lived. On Saturday he qualified 13th and had to start anew for Sunday morning’s warm-up and the race.In the race, Hayden was mostly outside the top ten: It wasn’t until lap 15 that he broke through. His rabbit would be fellow Ducati rider Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing). Hayden chased him to the end, but lost out on ninth by 1.8 seconds. His previous best finish was 12th, which he achieved in Qatar, Le Mans, and Mugello.”After the start of the weekend we had higher expectations,” Hayden said. “If we’re truthful, it is the best race I’ve had of the year, the gap from the front.”In the beginning I wasn’t so confident and some guys were certainly quicker than me the first few laps and I lost a lot of time, but I was able to keep my pace and then start making my way through and pass a few guys.”It wasn’t spectacular or nothing, but it was my best result so I have to try to be positive and hopefully for tomorrow,” during the first in-season test, “we can make a step. I mean, this week was a step and with a little bit here, a little bit there we would have certainly been a lot higher up on the grid, in the race. Yeah, I think, I really hope we’re on our way. I’m looking forward to Assen, Laguna, two tracks I love, so just stick to it.”The two areas that concerned Hayden going into the race were fuel consumption and tires. Hayden said he had to get his “fuel consumption better too, because the strong point of this bike is the engine and I’m not able to really take advantage of it because I have it leaned off quite a bit. So I need to work on that. Obviously, the turning, the pumping. The bike is really, still in the race, is really good on the brakes, the hard braking. But other than that we’ll be trying about everything.The tires performed as expected on a 100 degree day. The first problem for Hayden was when he had good grip in the rear. That pushed the front and held him back in the beginning. “But after six or seven laps, when the rear tire went off just a little bit, then the front quit pushing.”The tire was OK. Sure, the last four, five laps when I really tried to…y’know I was catching Kallio and got pretty close to him, but then I was really struggling for grip on the side of the tire, on the very edge. And then when I picked it up I had good grip, but the engine would go flat. Spinning, spinning and then bogging when it hooked up. And the fuel, I mean I finished, so yeah, I had enough. And actually, in the race, which is normal, fuel consumption got better. That’s normally how it works. It was actually OK in the race.”
Hayden Gets Tenth in Spain
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.