The opening round of the 2009 MotoGP season at Losail is destined to be a significant weekend for Nicky Hayden as gets ready for his first event with Ducati and his 100th race in total.
Having spent six seasons with Honda, former champion Hayden makes the high-profile switch to the Italian manufacturer in 2009, where he is eager to get back to winning ways, something he hasn't done since he won the title in 2006.
However, testing hasn't gone entirely to plan for Hayden as he struggles to adapt to the GP9, the American a fair way down on pace setting team-mate Casey Stoner.
Nonetheless, Hayden is happy to start the season in Qatar having conducted an encouraging test at the Losail circuit last month.
“It's nice to be going racing again,” he said. “The season is starting out much later than usual this year even though we haven't been doing much testing. To be honest with you I'd like to have had a little more time with the bike in pre-season but this is what we've got to deal with and now it's time to get serious.
“If I could have chosen anywhere to be making my debut on the Ducati I would have chosen Qatar, where we had a good test session a few weeks ago, so I guess I'm lucky in that respect! I can't hide the fact that I'd like to be closer to the front than where we're at right now and further down the road in terms of the work we've got to do with the team but I'm still really pleased that the season is starting because I love the races, I love racing and I love competing against those other guys.
“I'm looking forward to getting out to Qatar, where the temperature should be a bit higher than it was in the test, and we'll try to start out the season on the right foot by getting a decent result and enjoying myself as much as possible.”
Furthermore, the weekend also brings up a milestone for Hayden as he is set to make his 100th start in MotoGP.
“I can't believe it's already been a hundred GP starts - I have really enjoyed them all… well some a lot more than others! But it's been an honour to race in Grand Prix with all these great riders, sweet tracks, and the awesome fans all over the world! I know it won't be easy but I really hope my best GPs are ahead of me. It seems only fitting to start my 100th race with a new bike and team!”