Photography By: Gold & Goose
SEPANG, MALAYSIA, FEB 5 - The lowered expectations Ducati set during their team intro a month ago were certainly met on the first day of testing at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia. Nicky Hayden finished with the 10th fastest time, which was 2.179 seconds from the top, while new teammate Andrea Dovizioso was .2 of a second slower and down in 13th place.
During Wrooom 2013, the new management of Ducati Corse made it clear that the problems couldn't be solved overnight. Despite that, Hayden wasn't happy to find himself in the same place where he's been for much of the past two years.
"It was first day back on the bike in a while," Hayden said after finishing behind all but one of the other factory riders, some satellite team riders, and some senior Japanese test riders. "It was pretty much the same bike as last year, so it didn't really take a lot to get up to speed on. It was pretty similar, so mainly we just worked on some setting stuff, some suspension, different forks, different shock, all set-up stuff and found a couple of little things.
"But obviously, we can't be happy to be so far off the front and behind test riders. So, you know, it was a tough day, but we know it is going to be tough in the beginning so we're prepared for that and just try stay positive, try to stay motivated and just keep giving the guys the information so when they get ready they can come with some help."
During the team intro it was revealed that not everything from last season had been given a thorough workout. Hayden said it wasn't so much parts as strategies. Many of them are meant to fix the recalcitrant front end problems. Nothing the team has done for two years has solved the understeer issue.
"The front, yeah, the front, and also we struggled a lot today with the connection [between the throttle and the rear tire] and trying to get the power down and get off the corner," Hayden said. "But I would say... one thing, here is a bit special. Every time we have a lot of chatter, which is a big problem here, but I would say overall, this track is the most chatter we have on the whole calendar, so even though we're working on it here. Hopefully that chatter is something a lot more related to this track than a real problem for us. So today that was a big issue and it has been an issue here, but I think all the guys have chatter. I mean, it's not necessarily the bike. It's just the nature of this circuit with the long corners - once it gets used up."
Hayden knows he and Dovi have to get closer to the front. He said he hoped to be within a second by the end of the test, saying, "If we came here and went two seconds faster than I went last year it would be a problem. I would be mad - the bike's the same. We wouldn't expect to do... we did something wrong last year, but we can go faster than that. We know our bike has got more potential than what we went today."