ASSEN, HOLLAND, JUNE 25: Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden had a reversal of fortune late in MotoGP qualifying on a day that hadn’t begun well and was threatening to end badly.Hayden’s Friday began when he thought he lost an engine in morning practice. That was followed up by a crash that left his and his teammate’s crews scrambling to rebuild the machine if he was to have two bikes in qualifying.When qualifying finally got going, under bright, warm skies, Hayden was languishing toward the bottom of the order until he clocked his fastest lap on the 25th of 29 laps with his final qualifier. The time of 1:34.999 was 1.2 seconds faster than he’d gone all weekend, but he didn’t want to have to do it again.”It was not like a lap I want to do a lot of those tomorrow,” he said.Nor would he want to crash again on Saturday. The spill came near the end of the morning session when he was on a flyer. He’d gotten offline in the Stekkenwaal right-hander and hit some bumps “and the front just went. I rode it for a long time and I thought I had it saved, but at the moment you try to save some of these things… I was on the ground and almost had it picked up and then it was like, ‘man, I need to get off here,’ because it was…you know I didn’t want it to catch and there’s so fast, so off camber, if it woulda hooked, woulda been ugly.”Earlier in the session he thought he lost an engine, “Well, we think engine; we haven’t gotten it apart yet to really see. But it wasn’t like a real fresh one or anything. If I do got to lose one, I still had a little time left on it, but it was almost finished anyway.”Teammate Casey Stoner thought he’d also lost an engine when he had a backfire, but team manager Vito Guareschi said it was a carburetion issue that had caused the misfire.Hayden’s team didn’t have to change engines on the crashed bike, but the parts list was lengthy.”I was fine, but the bike was not good at all,” he said. “It was everything; swingarm, forks, triple clamps, the rear seat. Everything but the engine. And I really didn’t expect to have both bikes for the afternoon. But they did a really good job. They had some practice at Jerez having to do both at lunch and Casey’s guys helped. Everybody was in there getting after it.”I went out on the same bike I crashed and, you know, I did have quite used tires, because in the crash I lost some tires, which didn’t help me. But definitely couldn’t get the rhythm that I wanted. So we need to check. Hope, something…they do so much work so quick, maybe something was 100% right. I hope, I don’t know that, because we were getting a lot of moving this afternoon.”One bright spot was that Hayden clocked the fastest top speed and average in qualifying, though he didn’t put much stock in it. His single best top speed was 312 kph/193.868 mph and the average of his five best top speeds was 308.8 kph/191.879 mph.”I wasn’t 10k faster,” he said, “and this morning in practice, one lap was 6k faster.”The timing section is at the back kink and the top speed can vary greatly, depending on where you brake.”Acceleration is really the more important thing,” he said. “I would really rather have better acceleration than top speed.”
Hayden on Row Two in Assen
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.