MONTEREY, CA, JULY 24 – Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden was hoping for better in his return to the track where he’s had his greatest MotoGP success.With Hayden and teammate Casey Stoner improving race by race, the winner in 2005 and ’06 was hoping to put in a good show in front of the home crowd at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, site of Sunday’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. And, though teammate Stoner qualified second fastest, Hayden could do no better than seventh best.His lap of 1:21.920 mins. was just under a second off the blistering pace set by Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo in taking the pole. Only Stoner could challenge the Majorcan and he came up short by .191 secs. Third fastest Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) earned his first ever front row MotoGP starting position with a time that was half a second down on Stoner and .639 secs. off Lorenzo’s time.”Not fast enough,” Hayden said. “I mean, we made this morning really no steps because we went backwards on some stuff. But this afternoon the team did a good job and we were quite a bit faster, but so was everybody else. Only three-tenths off front row, but three-tenth here’s a lot and the gap to the front here at Laguna, my home race, is too much, so not happy about it, but we’re not going home yet, so come in here tomorrow and try to do something.”Hayden change the transmission and a few other things, but nothing seemed to help. His biggest problem was the ultra-fast turn one, more of a rising kink in the front straight than a proper corner. The corner is taken leaned over in sixth gear, but not flat stick.”I’m losing a lot of time in turn one,” he said. “I cannot feel the front through there and a lot of moving. When I lean it over I get spinning in the rear while I’m still wide open and it starts upsetting the bike, but that’s a big problem for me.”Hayden was amused that a number of riders tried to tag on behind him. “Yeah, I guess they still think I’m a Laguna expert,” while acknowledging that the “home track’s knowledge, that was gone. I’d wait on that other red Ducati if you really wanted to get a quick tow.”More than once Nicky showed his brother, Roger Lee, the way around. And Nicky watched as Roger Lee almost crashed in the chicane on one of Nicky’s out laps.”He got in a little hot. Had his foot down, but he just got it stopped,” Hayden said. “He may even have went into the dirt. But it was a little close.”
Nicky Hayden on Row Three
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.