Sixth in Sunday's Czech Republic Grand Prix was Nicky Hayden's second best result as a Ducati rider, after fifth at his home US GP, and the closest he has come this season to a podium finish.
The American looked in trouble at the start of the weekend when temporary team-mate Mika Kallio outpaced him in the two free practice sessions, but Hayden moved ahead of the Finn in qualifying - and remained the top Desmosedici rider from the first to last lap in the race.
Eighth for most of the grand prix, Hayden overtook countryman Colin Edwards for seventh on lap 14 of 22, which became sixth when Jorge Lorenzo crashed out of the lead soon after. Hayden crossed the finish line 4.788sec behind third placed Toni Elias.
“We have higher goals than this but sixth place is my second best result of the season so I have to be satisfied for today,” said the 2006 world champion. “After the disaster at Donington this has been a respectable weekend for us. The team did a great job all weekend getting the front working better for me so we've made progress and that is the most important thing.
“The race certainly wasn't easy - I lost a couple of positions off the line but had a good first lap and was able to get into that second group. To be honest from that point I was holding on, going as fast as I had all weekend and when we got up behind Colin I was able to make another pass. I could see the group ahead of me and as they made a couple of mistakes I could have maybe got there. I just pushed too hard and ran wide in a couple of places and had to do my best to hold my position.
“They were breathing all over me during those last couple of laps but I hung on and got sixth. We were only four seconds off the podium so we're obviously making some headway. I want to thank the team because it's not been an easy time recently but today we have something to be proud of."
Kallio crashed out of eighth after tangling with Melandri on the penultimate lap.
Hayden set the ninth fastest race lap. Kallio's best lap was 0.005sec faster.