LOSAIL, QATAR, APRIL 10: Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden lamented a lost opportunity in qualifying for the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix.Hayden was convinced he could've gone faster, and his ideal lap would have put him further up the grid. But on the strength of his best lap he qualified ninth, on the third row outside and two spots in front of fellow former AMA Superbike Champion Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech 3).Though he would like have been faster, the session went much smoother than last year's qualifying, when a vicious highside sent him to the medical center. He'd qualified 16th and would finish 12th in what would be the start of a difficult campaign."Yeah, I was taking a bumpy ride to the hospital last year going over those speed bumps in pain," he said. "Yeah, certainly a lot closer than we were last year, but we should be: The bike's better, it's my second year on the team. You know I'm happy, but I'm sure everybody's saying the same thing; all should've qualified better, better, everybody but maybe Casey [Stoner]. But my ideal time was up there, would've been a good lap."A balky clutch cost Hayden valuable time at the start of the one-hour session, held on a warm night under the floodlights at the desert circuit. His Ducati Desmosedici GP10 wouldn't backshift and he had to pit for a change."Once they swapped the clutch it was perfect."Hayden began to make his serious inroads halfway into the session. From 16th he went up to eighth, then bounced up and down the order. He dropped to tenth, then jumped up to seventh with about 15 minutes to run. Back down to ninth, he leapt to sixth with just under six minutes remaining. Then Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards bumped him off row two before he landed in ninth.On Friday, Hayden struggled with the softer of the two Bridgestone rears. But the team changed the tire pressure and he was able to go a little faster in qualifying."Not a lot," but enough to make a difference. His fast lap was done with a hard front and the softer rear. "My front had 21 laps on it at the end, but the hard front was fine," he said.As was the track, which many riders feared would be made slippery by humidity."You know, it seems fine to me," he said. "It's a lot warmer than when we were here testing. I mean when we were testing, about this time, you look out at the cars there'd be dew. When you would leave, you'd have to turn the wipers on and roll the windows down. Unless something blows in tomorrow, I don't see any problem at all."

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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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