Photography by Gold & Goose
Nicky Hayden was happy to be on the front row at Motegi, but he wanted more.
Hayden held P1 for much of the final 30 minutes of Saturday’s one hour, 15-minute MotoGP qualifying session on the factory Ducati, but in the end, on a drying track, world championship battlers Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez were able to push Hayden back to third.
Still, it was the best qualifying session of the year for Hayden and the first front-row start for the Kentuckian since round two at Jerez last year.
“I’m very pleased,” said Hayden, who is in his second-to-last race with Ducati. “We know in the wet we have a better opportunity. The turning, the chatter, the wheelies, a lot of those problems disappear in the wet and our bike works really well.”
Even though he was happy with his effort, he’d hoped to seriously turn some heads by hanging on to the pole.
“I know on one hand I should be happy, smile and go on to be on the front row “Hayden said. “But I’m also a little bit bitter, because during the session we were really fast and at the end the other guys stepped up and as the track dried out I wasn’t able to improve as much I thought I could. That’s not nice, but we are on the front row, so we need to somehow try to take advantage of it the best we can tomorrow and try to have a good race.”
Ever the good sport, Hayden took the time to extend thanks after his strong qualifying effort.
“Thanks to my team for working as hard as ever in a very difficult moment for all of us with many changes,” he said. “Also thanks to the Japanese fans for sticking around. They’ve endured a hard weekend so far, so hopefully they enjoyed that and we can do an even better show tomorrow.”