MOTEGI, JAPAN, SEPT. 29 –
Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden showed up for his pre-race media scrum at Twin Ring Motegi , which wasn't a certainty if you follow him on Twitter.Two days days earlier at the Evansville, Indiana, airport, a bored Hayden Tweeted:
"I have taken a very difficult decision not to go to Japan out safety concerns & radiation levels. Hope the fans understand & will support me."The Tweet immediately lit up the Twitterverse, many of whom were surprised by Hayden's sudden about-face on the Japanese Grand Prix. A second Tweet followed, and there would be more."Gotcha... I was kidding with all that Nonsense about not going to japan. Most saw thru the BS, but a few of ya bite on it pretty hard." Then came another message saying he was boarding the plane in Chicago, and a day later brought an apology."Sorry to any fans who took that joke wrong 2 much airport bordom. Please except & if not just unfollow me...Hayden had a smooth ride to the track two hours north of Tokyo, as did the vast majority of the paddock. Several mechanics chose not to come and the Italian press boycotted en masse, though one showed up and more might trickle in on Friday. At his pre-race press gathering, Hayden said the reaction to his tweet was, "Not a whole lot. Most people pretty knew I was, I mean, kidding. Most people know that I'm not gonna - the day I'm leaving - gonna just up and put out a press release on Twitter."I had some funny comments. A lot of people who said, ‘I don't blame you,' but those kinda made me nervous and they had a pretty good reason why. But everything seems good here. I mean, we have our own guys checked everything."Ducati has retained U-Series, a Bologna-based firm specializing in radioactivity and radiation protection, to assess the dangers of going to Japan. Their findings were similar to those of the company that had done an earlier assessment for Dorna. Two of the firm's consultants (shown in photo) traveled to Japan, with Geiger counters in hand."Everything seems like a normal GP," Hayden said - but he will leave his shoes behind.Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa had earlier told the Spanish media he was going to leave all his clothes in Japan, which seemed extreme to many. Asked if he was going to leave his clothes behind, Hayden said, "Not all of them. My shoes [a clean pair of Nike running shoes] and stuff, they said, but I'm not planning on leaving it all here. Maybe a few little things here and there."Overall, though, Hayden didn't see much out of the ordinary."I mean, we're here, we're here racing to do a job," he said. "Once we got all the checks saying the place was okay, not coming in here doubting the situation, or thinking this, that... I'm trying to treat it like any other GP. I arrived like I normally do, same program, same setup. Our team, a few guys arrived a little bit later, but some of them was because they were delayed. And, obviously, the radiation is all under control. Still some shakes. And last night some people felt something, but it can happen anywhere. I'm here to do a normal weekend, not even thinking about that sort of stuff. It's not going to help the situation."Motegi hasn't been a good track to Hayden since he made the move to Ducati. Last year he was 12th. He'll again be riding the Desmosedici GP11.1 again at Motegi, the same bike he rode at Aragon to a distant seventh place."Aragon wasn't, obviously, how we wanted but, you know, come back in here, try again," he said. "This hasn't been a very good track last couple of years, especially on the Ducati. I've struggled a lot here in a lot of the hairpins where you need a bike turning good and get out of those corners and I've struggled. But track's repaved in a few sections, so at least something a little bit different. We try till the end, so we'll see."