MOTEGI, JAPAN, OCT 12 – Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden was the only rider in the top ten to not improve his time from the morning to the afternoon practice sessions at the Twin Ring Motegi. Hayden was happy with his progress in the morning, but not so much in the afternoon. While the rest of the MotoGP pack sped up, Hayden went only slightly slower, but enough to land him 10th overall after the first full sunny day of practice for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Hayden’s problems were physical and mechanical and unavoidably linked. The Desmosedici GP12 was suffering brake fade on the hard braking, stop-start circuit, and the harder he pulled the brake lever, the more stress it put on the right wrist that Hayden broke when he flew over the barricade at the Aragon Grand Prix two weeks ago.
“Obviously, the faster you go the harder you’ve got to brake and I was suffering a little bit in some of the braking here,” he said. “You really brake hard, especially in the downhill corners into the right-handers. So that wasn’t helping me. But also I had other problems and that’s not the only reason I was down in tenth.
“So definitely not a very productive day, but on the other hand was nice to have a full day in the dry. It’s really the first day I’ve had a full day in the dry since Indy, as far as a Friday or Saturday goes.”
Hayden was recovering from an earlier hand injury when doctors discovered a crack in his right wrist.
“The hand’s pretty much okay now,” he said, making clear that wasn’t he reason he was so far off the pace. “This track is certainly not a good track for wrists. I mean, do a lot of braking here. We’ve having problems as it is with the brakes overheating. I would say this seems to be the hardest braking track we’ve been to this year, especially on the 1000s.”
The problem with brakes snowballed into a corner entry issue. Since he couldn’t get the bike to stop, he ran wide on entry, “and therefore on the exit it’s messed up. So this afternoon we tried one thing on the other bike and didn’t really like it and stuff so hopefully we might have a little couple ideas for tomorrow.”
The toughest area is the downhill Turn 11 right at the end of the backstraight, “so feeling the brakes fade a little bit there.”
On the bright side, Hayden was giving his new chassis a full day’s workout. He tried it alongside the older chassis and felt there was no comparison. He said that overall he feels “more comfortable on the new one. Ride that one the rest of the weekend, make two of them like that and we’ll see.”
The next improvement on the schedule is a new swingarm, which he expects to have for next week’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
“Well, it could definitely help the grip,” he said. “Vale’s [Rossi] using it now and seems to like it pretty good.”