Nicky Hayden claimed a 2009 best of fourth on the grid for Sunday's German Grand Prix - on his spare bike and despite a dramatic mid-air collision with fellow Ducati rider Niccolo Canepa.

Hayden, also fourth in the dry morning practice, was left 17th and last due to a gearbox problem early in the soaking wet qualifying session, forcing a switch to his second bike.

"In some ways the session was a complete disaster but I ended up with my best grid position of the year so I'll take it!" began Nicky. "I went out on the first bike and immediately something happened to the gearbox going into turn one and I almost went down. It was stuck in second gear so I had to ride it all the way back to the pits like that.

"I didn't feel as comfortable on my second bike but I knew that was all I had to work with for the rest of the session so I was a little tentative. Then we made a couple of changes and got going pretty good. Things were coming together so I went out with ten minutes to go, got right on the pace and felt I could do something special."

Hayden needed to close a 0.644sec gap to team-mate Casey Stoner in order to claim a front row start. But as the 2006 world champion negotiated the fast downhill left-hand turn eight, which had already claimed numerous victims throughout the session, he lost the rear of his Desmosedici and was launched skywards.

The flying American then slammed shoulder-first into nearby Canepa, sending both bikes and riders scattering through the gravel trap. Hayden was unhurt, rolling to a halt away from the bouncing machines, but Canepa had to be carried away on a stretcher. The Pramac rider was later declared okay.

"I set my best time through the first split but then in the downhill section I lost the rear and there was no way of getting it back, unfortunately it took Niccolo out too," confirmed Hayden. "I'm basically okay from the crash and I hope Niccolo is okay too because it was my fault. I was trying too hard when it was getting too slippery - it was raining harder but I felt like I could go faster"

Hayden will be aiming to beat a Ducati best of fifth last time out at his home US Grand Prix.