Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden on the 1000cc Era

Henny Ray Abrams | October 20, 2011


 Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden doesn’t think next month’s post-Valencia test will be a true indication of the dawn of the 1000cc era.Hayden made the remarks the day before the start of the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit. Sepang is the preferred testing venue for MotoGP, with the teams convening here for two three-day tests during the winter. The weather in Malaysia is consistent throughout the year and the track is fast, unlike Valencia, which is more of an oversized go-kart track.

Hayden tested Ducati’s Desmosedici GP12 in Jerez earlier this month as a last minute replacement for the injured Valentino Rossi. He characterized the test as positive, but added that he won’t know how good the motorcycle is until he can measure up against the competition. Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, as well as Yamaha’s Ben Spies and Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga, 30, are testing here at Sepang on Monday. Ducati has used up all of their test days.”

We won’t really know until we get here,” Hayden said of the late January, early February test. “Valencia, testing 1000s you won’t be a lot different. But here it’ll be interesting to come to a big fast track where we find out.”His early belief is that with the 1000 “I think we’re going to be closer. We still got more work to do with the thousand. So far though, it seems a good bike. Seems more normal. Seems a little bit more like as we…it’s easier to find the setup, work in a more direct way. And I’ve had a good feeling with the thousand every time I’ve ridden it. To say, ‘Oh, our problems are just going to be solved,’ we still got to see what the others do on the same track. But it’s going to be very fun. I’m very excited and interested to see more what we got. Also a bit of it is see what the others have.”All the testing Hayden and Rossi did last winter won’t have much relevance this weekend because “the bike is completely different. Obviously, the gearing and things like that are similar. Same tires we use. But sometimes that data, anyway, doesn’t really work here. We test here in January, February. Track seems always different when we come back here. It’s not useful, I mean, as much as if we had that bike. But still, we’ll take something from it.”Hayden was more looking forward to this weekend as a gauge of how far the bike has come. The motorcycle he started with has greatly evolved, though even the latest iteration isn’t competitive with the front-running Hondas and Yamahas.”Yeah, it’s going to be nice to compare the data and see exactly what’s different from the other bike,” he said.He added, “The bar is much higher. I mean, even here at the test they were doing ‘59s this year. I wasn’t doing 59’s. At Phillip Island I qualified eight-tenths faster than I did last year” and improved his qualifying position from sixth to fifth. “I mean, sure, it’s made it harder for us. And even sometimes when we feel like we do make a little progress, they’re not sitting still. But I mean, that’s what racing is. It’s always a challenge.”

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.