VALENCIA, SPAIN, NOV 6 - Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden qualified fifth, just in front of fellow Americans Ben Spies and Colin Edwards for Sunday's MotoGP season finale in Valencia, Spain, the trio caught up in a tight pack that could easily have finished in a vastly different order.Hayden was .092 sec. behind fourth fastest Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha) and .092 up on Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Spies. Edwards was another .144 sec. back and only .013 ahead of the first of the Repsol Hondas, Dani Pedrosa, who was narrowly faster than his teammate Andrea Dovizioso.Hayden had been fast early in the session all weekend and he followed form in qualifying, when the track was warmer and offered more grip."Straight away I was able to go faster than I'd been all weekend with hard tires," he began, "made a couple of tweaks to the bike that really helped and it would've certainly been nice to be on the front row for the last race and it's a couple tenths. My last flying lap in Turn 1, just as I was getting off the brake, I pushed the front pretty good and just enough to kinda lose a little confidence in the front, which could've been a couple tenths. I'm sure everybody's got a story like that, but we're fifth."We can maybe go more in the direction we went this afternoon, maybe try to have something for the race. So it's a lot of guys in there about the speed I'm going. Here, this track, you got to claw for them tenths. But I'm looking forward to the race. We'll see when we line up.'Hayden's fast lap of 1:32.422 mins. came at the first of a five lap run that ended his qualifying session. The next session he ran wide in a turn and wasn't able to match his best time with the other laps."I was pushing the front," Hayden said. "I put the new front in quite early, just so I didn't have to mess, you know, when I went out with my soft, so I could just go. The rear actually was not too bad. I mean, I was improving in the last split, which is where if your tire goes off you can improve, but wasn't able to put the whole lap tomorrow."Bridgestone widened the gap between their hard and soft options for the final three races, after a number of riders, including Casey Stoner, said they were too similar. Hayden didn't try the harder option in the morning and put 23 laps on the softer rear, with his fast laps coming in his final stint."Up until this afternoon I was pretty convinced I was going to use the soft tire," for the race, he said, "and then this afternoon we changed the bike and the warmer track, the hard tire felt good. So I'm going to the meeting next to make that decision, but it's supposed to a bit cooler tomorrow and overcast."

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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.

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