MUGELLO, ITALY, JULY 2 – Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden struggled to qualify ninth in half a dry session for the team’s home grand prix in Mugello, and afterwards said the team was running out of time to fix the problems.Hayden was the first of the Ducatis, which was little consolation, as Hector Barbera, Karel Abraham, and teammate Valentino Rossi finished behind him. He joked that he was also the first rider from Kentucky. The session began under ominous skies that began to open up gradually and eventually poured. With 27 minutes remaining in the hour, the track was mostly deserted. Other than Rossi and Hayden going out at the end of the session for a few laps, there was very little action.Hayden finished 1.475 secs. off the pole-setting pace of last year’s teammate, Casey Stoner, the Repsol Honda rider who earned his fifth pole of the season, and already has four wins. Now eight races into the season, Hayden sounds frustrated that the GP11 seems immune to the best efforts of him and his team.
“You know, just made some little improvements and stuff, but you know, I mean, we’re a long way off,” he said after his best lap of 1:49.509 mins. Stoner’s pole time was 1:48.034 mins. “Guys with 48.0s. We’re not ready to go that fast. It’s clear we haven’t done the big step, like some guys.”This morning,” in the dry session, “I was actually a bit closer this morning than it looked, because I didn’t put a soft tire on at the end, that’s when the gap got a lot quicker and some guys moved closer and in front of me. And this afternoon was just, I don’t want to say I coulda went faster, because we knew the rain was coming and had to get try down to a good lap time; it was definitely pretty loose, because it’s such a long track. You come back around two minutes later and you don’t know if it’s raining harder or not, parts of the track bigger drops than others. Was interesting, to say the least, but was a shame for the fans, for the riders, just the last 15 minutes, which can be the most exciting time of the weekend, we’re all sitting in the box doing nothing.”Hayden said he still had problems with the rear of the bike, but that Rossi was much happier with his swingarm and rear suspension, “as far as some pumping and stability and moving, where I still definitely have some problems. We’ve seen on TV in the last chicane, where I was really loose there.”Still, Hayden was .4 sec. faster than Rossi.”You know, if you’re not happy with the front, can be a big problem,” he said of why Rossi finished behind him. “And I don’t want to speak for him; I haven’t talked to him since the weekend started. I expected him to be really…this is his track. We know he’s good here, he’s won a lot, so see how he does tomorrow.”For his part, Hayden said he’d tried everything to solve the front end problem, “every head angle, offset, weight. I definitely think it’s something bigger. Something possibly with the chassis.”And if they can’t find a solution to the handling problems soon, it may be time to go in a different direction, Hayden said.