Hayden: It’s not my bike yet
1 January 1901
2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden finished the first day of 2009 testing eleventh out of the 19 riders present at Sepang on Thursday, as he continued the process of adapting to the new carbon-fibre framed Desmosedici GP9 following five seasons at Repsol Honda.
Sepang marks Hayden's third test with Ducati and, although he says the powerful Italian machine fits him well, the fact that he can't instantly 'drop the hammer' proves he is yet to fully bond with the machine.
“You know I've never felt too uncomfortable on it,” replied Nicky, when asked by Crash.net if it felt like his bike yet. “I haven't had to change a lot, the geometry fits me pretty good, but still I wouldn't say it's my bike because when I go out it takes me too many laps to go fast. It's not like I can just go out and drop the hammer yet.”
Since its 2007 debut, the 800cc Desmosedici has built a reputation as a fearsomely effective grand prix winner in the hands of Casey Stoner, but bewildering to many of the other Ducati riders.
Hayden at least has a clear idea of where he needs to find time, revealing that the Desmosedici remains 'wild' on corner exit - although its other characteristics are encouraging.
“Yeah [it's still wild]. On the exit here I'm having some problems with stability - a lot of pumping. Everywhere else is really stable; on the brakes, through the fast corners, but on the exit when it breaks loose there's a lot of pumping,” said the American.
One theory as to why Stoner, the 2007 world champion and 2008 title runner-up, has been so successful with the Desmosedici is that he hasn't tried to tame it too much. Whilst not thinking specially in those terms, Hayden confirmed that he won't be sacrificing speed for comfort.
“We're not trying to fix it by making it slower; we're working more on the suspension set-up and power curve,” he explained. “We didn't make huge changes because I'm still quite a bit off the pace, so I want to get closer before we go and do any offsets or anything crazy.”
Hayden's best Thursday lap was a 2min 4.002sec, which was almost two seconds slower than second fastest Stoner. Hayden's best Honda lap in October's Malaysian Grand Prix was a 2min 2.758sec, set on his way to fourth position.
The main talking point with the new Desmosedici is the introduction of a carbon-fibre frame, a first in the four-stroke era of MotoGP. Hayden, who rode with aluminium frames at Honda, said that he likes the stability offered by the composite, but needs to get more feel from it.
“Everything about the Ducati feels different to what I had before and the frame is a lot different,” he said.
In what way is the frame different?
“It's black!” joked Ducati team manager Livio Suppo, listening nearby.
“I would say in a straight line it's the same, but in the corners it's quite a bit different,” smiled Hayden. “I definitely think it has some good points; it's stable in braking and stable in the fast corners.
“I would say you have more feel, but I don't have a good feel for the limit of the chassis yet. You don't feel a warning or get a lot of positive feedback as to where the limit is it. It's like an on/off thing,” Hayden explained.
Looking ahead to Friday's second day of testing, Hayden has one clear aim.
“Try to improve the bike under acceleration, that's where I'm losing a lot. I need to get the power on harder,” he declared.
Sete Gibernau was the second fastest Ducati rider on Thursday, in ninth position for Grupo Francisco Hernando, with MotoGP rookies Mika Kallio and Niccolo Canepa 13th and 19th for Pramac Racing.