Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden dug himself a deep hole by qualifying 13th for Saturday’s Dutch TT in Assen, Holland.Hayden had flashes of improvement earlier in the day, but when it counted there were problems. And he was trying so hard on his final qualifying lap that he ran off the track. That meant no improvement and a fifth row start for the seventh race of the MotoGP World Championship.”Qualifying hasn’t been my strong point and it’s really hurt me, because you start so far back, it’s tough,” Hayden said. “This morning was not too bad. We made a nice step from yesterday to this morning, improved in position and lap time. In the afternoon we tried some stuff and none of it was good, so eventually we went back to what I had this morning and improved a little bit with the lap time, but the position was tough, because around here it’s hard to pass. Certainly I thought single digits would be possible today, but did my best lap and on the next lap I pushed too hard in the braking and ran off, so that was that.”Hayden wasn’t losing time on the brakes, as he had elsewhere, because, he said, “there’s not a lot of hard braking. But sure my bike works really good on the brakes. For me a little bit of problem is getting heat in the left side of the tire. Like this afternoon, by the time I would get the left side some heat, the right side was already not working good. And the hard tires were really hard to get heat in the left side of the tire. I’ve struggled a bit with that. It’s hard to heat the tires on the left. Single compound around here, this is a track we need dual compound. These bikes, the power, there’s too big a gap in the cold conditions. Yesterday wasn’t a problem, but it was quite cool today.”Hayden and teammate Casey Stoner, the fourth fastest qualifier, differed on swingarm choices. Stoner preferred the carbon fiber unit, while Hayden stuck with aluminum.”Well, there’s not a lot in it to me,” he said. “I mean, the carbon has some advantages, but for me it’s not enough. In Barcelona I tested the carbon with a new shock option that I think has some potential. It was just a test shock. We don’t have enough parts yet to use that combination. To use that shock, you have to use the carbon swingarm. So I’m sure we’ll try that once we get some parts.”The Desmosedici engine is one of its strong points, but Hayden has sometimes found it difficult to get the most out of it because of fuel restrictions. In Assen, he said they ran a little short on Friday, but were better in the morning. And, if he doesn’t have to alter his fuel consumption, he can put the engine to its best use.”We’re in a reasonable range,” he said. “My bike is running really good this weekend, actually. Yesterday was really fast. I had the second average top speed. Sure my bike feels like it’s running better here than Barcelona. The cooler temperature, whatever it is, I’m not sure. From the out lap yesterday it was running better.”And from 13th on the grid he’s going to need as much help as he can get, even if it comes from the skies.”Well, yeah, I’d probably like the drama in the rain,” he said. “Starting 13th I’m probably not going to find a second and a half in the warm-up. Yeah, why not. But I can’t go to bed praying for rain every week. I need to sort my problems out. But a little Saturday afternoon showers probably wouldn’t hurt my feelings.”
Hayden’s Struggles Continue
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.