Nicky Hayden produced one of the major surprises of Friday practice at Motegi as he finished sixth fastest for Ducati, just half a second shy of the dominant Repsol Hondas. The American also starred in the morning session, finishing third fastest ahead of the factory Yamahas, before being pipped by Lorenzo in the afternoon.
Hayden was encouraged by the early performance of the GP11.1 and is desperate to reward the hard working Ducati mechanics with a good result on Sunday.
“I had fun riding the bike today, and that's important. This morning was really encouraging, because I could ride comfortably, and we really haven't made many changes throughout the day. I've steadily got a little bit faster, but the others made a bigger jump in the afternoon. I've certainly had worse Fridays this year, but we've got a long way to go if we want to be near the front on Sunday afternoon. We've got a couple of small ideas to try to improve the bike under braking. As hard as Ducati has worked to try to help us, it would be really nice to give them a result they deserve.”
Teammate Valentino Rossi was half a second further back in eighth after choosing not to run the softer tyre in FP2 and feels much happier with the GP11.1 than he did at Aragon two weeks ago.
“We made progress with the bike throughout the day, and as a result we improved our lap times, dropping below 1:48. The pace is still far from the top, but not bad for now. There are a number of things to resolve, but we're definitely not in the situation we were at Aragon, where we always had big problems with rear grip. That's not the case here. We worked on weight distribution, loading the front a little more, and it's better. Tomorrow we must try to drop into the low 1:47 range. That's our goal. Nicky is already there, although he chose to ride mainly with the soft tyre. The track is good. The asphalt has good grip, and they did a good job.”