LOSAIL, QATAR, APRIL 9: Here we go again.That was the thought going through Nicky Hayden’s mind well into the first night practice for the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix. The “Kentucky Kid” was slipping down the order, closer to the bottom than the top, much as he’d done for most of last year.But instead of finishing 13th of 17, as he had in last year’s first practice, Hayden soon zoomed up the charts to a promising fifth fastest, one of his best opening day performances since joining Ducati.The problem was less mechanical or rider than communication. When he first pitted, the team didn’t change from the soft Bridgestone rear to the harder one, which he favors. It was only when they told him to pit a second time that the remedy was applied and he instantly went faster.Unable to crack the 1:57’s on the soft tire, Hayden dipped almost straight into the 57’s and finished with a best lap of 1:56.792 at the end of a four lap run. His fastest lap was his 20th.”We actually had a confusion,” Hayden said. “They thought they changed the rear tire after the first run, but first race, we got a couple new guys and actually got one guy, one of my mechanics [Pedro Calvet Caral] broke his leg four, five days ago quite bad and couldn’t come. So they had to bring a guy from the test team. You know, first race, whatever, made a little mistake. It happens and the tire didn’t get put in.”The soft tire isn’t a serious race option, Hayden and others believe, because of the way the sand on the track chews up the rubber. Even when he was here in testing he went faster on the hard tire. When he wasn’t improving his lap time tonight he thought, “Here we go again. And then they gave me ‘BOX.’ And I was thinking, why do they want ‘BOX?’ They better want something. Because normally they don’t give me ‘BOX.’ Normally something’s wrong with the bike or whatever. So I came in, I put the hard tire in and immediately started going a little bit faster, a little bit faster. And in the end we went not as quick as I went in the testing”-his best was a 1:56.115 “but pretty close. That’s about what I was doing consistently, that’s about what I was doing in testing. Bike is pretty much the same, though it is the bike that I crashed at the test and checked a couple of things.”But overall, it is nice to get the first session out of the way, even though I’m not 18 any more,” he said of the opening-day jitters. “Still, it’s the first race of the season and probably holding on a little tighter than I needed to the first few laps. But overall the bike felt decent, but certainly going to have to get in the 55’s if I want to be anywhere near the front, so we got a lot of work to do tomorrow. Overall, not just a disastrous first session.”
Nicky Zooms to Fifth
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.