Nicky Hayden Reflects on Disappointing Eighth
Nicky Hayden might have claimed Ducati’s first MotoGP front row start since 2010 in Jerez but a promising weekend ended in a disappointing eighth place in Sunday’s race.
The hard-charging American delivered a performance full of his trademark grit and determination as he took the fight to Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa in the early laps.
The 2006 world champion brilliantly held third until the sixth lap when he suddenly started to drop down the order with grip issues having chosen to run the soft front and rear Bridgestone
The Kentucky rider said: “In the beginning I had a lot of fun because it was very easy to heat the tyres. I took some big chances to try to get to the front, but wasn’t that crazy. Other guys were moving around and my bike was quite easy. But it seemed like about the time their tires got heated up mine were already moving around and it made for a really long race. I used soft and soft and when the tires went off it was really hard to do the rhythm. I lost the grip and lost steering. So after about seven or eight laps it wasn’t too much fun anymore. At the end I had a bit of a race with (Stefan) Bradl. I thought I should have beat him and then I didn’t. I got in front of him and we were back and forth in the last corner. He did a good race and beat me. It was a tough weekend with all the different changes in the weather, but that’s the same for everybody. Eighth place is not very good after starting on the front row and we certainly need to do certainly better in Portugal.”
Valentino Rossi pledged his immediate future to Ducati on the eve of the Jerez race after rumors spread like wildfire that he could walk out on his contract after a dismal slump to 10th in the season’s opening race in Qatar.
The 33-year-old was adamant that he will honor his contract with the Bologna factory despite criticizing Ducati for failing to solve understeer and power delivery issues with the new GP12 Desmosedici.
The Italian said quitting early had not even entered his head in the wake of the Qatar disaster and added, “I never think to leave Ducati and I have zero chance to ride another bike. When you sign a contract you have to arrive at the end giving the maximum effort. And so this is our target now.”
Having quashed intense speculation about his future, the nine-time world champion renewed his call for Ducati to tame its aggressive power delivery.
Many believe the power delivery is also contributing to the understeer issue that sapped Rossi’s confidence in 2010 and he said Ducati was well aware in the areas where it needs to work and improve the GP12.
“I always have some difficulty in acceleration to open the throttle,” Rossi said. “More than managing the power, it is having the right link between the throttle and what’s happening in the engine and this is because our engine is very powerful and we have to use a lot of electronics to use this power. I think to improve the acceleration of this bike we need to work more on the engine, not just on the electronics.”
Rossi is expecting some new solutions to assess during a one-day post-race test session at the Estoril track in Portugal next Monday. But the solution would be nothing as radical as a new engine and he added: “It is not a new engine. It is the same engine but with two or three modifications for better delivery. I don’t know if will be ready for Portugal. But fortunately, we have some other tests later, so at this moment, we don’t know, but we hope as soon as possible.”
Factory Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden said he never doubted that Rossi would continue working hard to improve results and that quitting wasn’t an option.
“Valentino’s a fighter. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to give up. He’s got nine titles for a reason and I’m sure he’s going to find a way back to the front soon.”
Hayden also says he fully supports Valentino Rossi’s demands to get Ducati to tame its aggressive power delivery for the remainder of the MotoGP world championship.
The American has spoken throughout winter testing and the early part of the new 1000cc era of his struggle to tame the GP12 Desmosedici’s power delivery, which has caused a lack of rear grip and has also contributed to an on-going understeer problem.
The 2006 world champion said, “From the beginning I’ve struggled with the new bike. I’ve felt better in the front but struggled with the traction and getting off the corner. So the bike is definitely fast. Obviously we’ve seen the top speed in Qatar and the Ducati was a bullet. We need to smooth the engine off the bottom and I’m not even sure if all electronics. It’s a combination of electronics but also maybe something with the engine just to be able to use the power. We have so much power, but at the moment we’re taking too much away with traction control, wheelie control and spinning too much. That’s our big problem, being able to use all this power that we got.”
Hayden paid tribute to the work of Ducati technical staff in Bologna to try and bridge the gap to Yamaha and Honda.
The former Repsol Honda rider added: “Hopefully soon we can get it turned around and put a smile on the Ducati fans faces, because they certainly deserve it. Ducati deserves good results. They worked extremely hard with this new bike and even recently in Mugello they went to a lot of work to prepare me a bike and a full team to try and make up for some of the tests I missed.”