Ducati riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden fought each other all the way to the chequered flag in Sunday's United States Grand Prix before coming home in sixth and seventh respectively.
Rossi had opted for the GP11.1 machine which gave him problems throughout and the Italian was unable to keep up with the leaders. Rossi has admitted that a lot of work is still required to close the gap but remains optimistic they will be able to challenge the top six before the end of the year.
“We worked well this weekend. We started from a better position than we have in recent races, and I got a good launch on the start and tried to stay with the leaders. I did a lap in the mid-'22s, but then I closed the front twice in a row on the bumps in Turn 5 and nearly crashed. I still had a tough race after that, because Nicky stayed glued to me and didn't give me a chance to breathe.”
“We obviously don't want to be fighting for sixth place, but we're having some problems at the moment and we have to try and do our best with what we have. We're losing too much on corner entry, where I'm very slow because I don't have enough feeling, but Ducati is working and we must stay focused and positive, making progress step by step. In the short term, we have to make up those missing tenths in order to stay with the group with Spies, Sic and Dovizioso. Then we'll think about the others.”
A two time winner at this race, Hayden admitted he was hoping for much more than seventh place but the American thoroughly enjoyed the battle with Rossi and rubbished any suggestions that the nine-time world champion had lost his motivation.
“I've won this race before, so I'm not going to jump up and down celebrating seventh place. We knew it was going to be tough, and crashing in qualifying didn't help. I got a decent start, but I didn't get to go with that second group like I had hoped. It was kind of like the Sachsenring: a good battle with Valentino, but thirty seconds behind the front. Vale was no faster than me, but he's a racer: he doesn't make mistakes and give you anything. A couple of times I thought I might be able to go up the inside, but I'm not just going to close my eyes and knock us both down trying for sixth place. People who think he's not trying are crazy. I saw his right foot come off the peg a couple of times when he almost went down. We'll take two weeks off, regroup and go to Brno. Now is no time to be negative. I believe in my team and Ducati, and I really think we're still going to have a good season.”
Hayden used the GP11 at Laguna Seca but Team Manager Vittoriano Guareschi has confirmed that he will test the 2012 chassis once again at Brno in three weeks time.
“I think the guys on the team and both of our riders deserve a big thank-you for what they did this weekend. The two crews were ready to give Vale and Nicky both the GP11 and the GP11.1, and they worked without a moment's break in both directions, which was an enormous effort that allowed us to collect a lot of data for the engineers back at the office. With Vale we continued focusing on the setup of the GP11.1, thinking toward the future. Vale was able to improve over the course of the weekend, and in the race he made the most of the package that's currently available to him. Nicky did comparative tests between the two bikes. Then for his home round he opted to race with the one that he knew better, although he liked a number of aspects about the new bike, which he'll try again at Brno.”