Nicky Hayden emerged on top of a rain-interrupted opening night of testing in Qatar, which saw only eleven riders record a 'fast' lap time due to the unexpected conditions.

When testing began at 6pm riders were already concerned about sand blown onto the circuit, but it was the arrival of rain just before the end of the first hour that prompted red flags to be shown.

Several riders, Hayden included, got a handful of laps in before returning to join the rest of the riders watching the weather from pit-lane.

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At around 9pm a group of rider representatives, including Hayden's Ducati Marlboro team-mate Casey Stoner and reigning world champion Valentino Rossi, convened with the circuit officials to discuss the state of the track, due to the rain and sand.

With no sun to dry the surface, and the section between turns 11 and 12 still damp, track action only resumed at around 10:30pm. Nevertheless - with the abrasive sand causing tyre problems for many of those that ventured out - Stoner, Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Loris Capirossi and Jorge Lorenzo all remained in the pits.

Typically, Hayden tried to salvage something from the track time available and completed a total of 31 laps, including the fastest of the night, while testing some electronic updates and a new fork.

"I haven't seen rain in Qatar in all my life and I never thought I would!" smiled the 2006 world champion. "But today we'd barely got the bike on track and it started to come down. We had to spend a long time in the garage because even though a part of the track had dried out there was a section that stayed damp for a while.

"The track conditions were tricky and there wasn't much feedback, which meant we couldn't do the work we had planned. We've got a few different things to try so hopefully the weather is better tomorrow so we can get some work done," added the American.

Hayden's best lap of 2min 0.717sec was five seconds off Stoner's 2008 lap record, but 0.15sec in front of new Hayate Racing Team rider Marco Melandri.

Melandri, making his debut on the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-RR, completed 35 laps, more than any other rider on Sunday.