Photography by Gold & Goose
AUSTIN, TEXAS, APR. 20 - Ducati’s Nicky Hayden was one of a handful of riders who had sampled the 3.5-mile Circuit of The Americas layout prior to this weekend’s debut Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas, but he’d done so on a Ducati 1199 Panigale R and not his MotoGP bike. It had helped him get through the initial learning curve of at least knowing which way he was going, but it wasn’t a game changer and it certainly wasn’t the same as the factory Honda and Yamaha riders who had tested here last month.
“It helped me know the way, but I think everybody who rode it on scooters knew the layout too,” Hayden said after ending up ninth overall after the two practice sessions yesterday. “In fact, in turn one and a couple of places I had to completely forget what I was doing on that streetbike because it was completely wrong. But it helped know the layout.”
As is the norm, Hayden says he’s struggling with getting the Ducati to work on corner entry.
“Turning is a bit of a problem because a lot of the corners connected,” Hayden said. “Once you run wide in the first corner, especially toward the end of the esses… in the beginning, I’m okay but as they start tightening up I’m losing a lot at the end of T-1 and the start of T-2. The new surface, we like that. No bumps and I’ll take it.”
To a man everyone complained about a complete lack of grip in the cold morning session, but Hayden said this morning’s session – even if it’s cold – will be better.
“It should be better than today by quite a long way because a full day running on the track, MotoGP and Moto2,” he said. “Plus now you kind of know the track. The problem then was first time on the track, plus a green track and cold tires. It was a bit much. At least now we’ve got a day under our belt and we’ll be able to go out and actually heat the tires in the first couple of laps so it won’t be an issue.”’
Today will mark the second time the MotoGP men sample the new 15-minute Qualifying 2 session for those making the 12-rider cut. Hayden didn’t have a plan yet, but said it would likely be similar to Qatar.
“We haven’t talked about it here and we’ll look at the track length, but I would say two runs [two stints, likely three laps each] here. At the shorter tracks for sure. Here, and Qatar, it’s so long your in and out laps are… when we got to Jerez or someplace smaller, the 15 minutes will be a lot longer. Here I’m not sure.”
As for traffic issues if everyone rushes out straight away hoping to get a good lap in, Hayden said: “Ten guys, three miles, I’d say we can sort it out. We can manage.”