A top five finish during the final round of his first MotoGP season with Ducati has given Nicky Hayden confidence that can carry his renewed form through to 2010.
A season in which the American initially had difficulty adapting to the Desmosedici, Hayden's form has picked up as the season has worn on, scoring a podium at Indianapolis and a top five finish at Sepang and Valencia.
Ending the year 13th in the standings, although Hayden admits his first season with the former champions has not gone entirely to plan, he points out he was innocently involved in three incidents this season, yet would finish just nine points behind Toni Elias in seventh.
“I thought it might be possible to do a little better than that today but I didn't get the best start,” he said. “The clutch was slipping a little bit down the first couple of straightaways and I lost some positions. After that I managed to pull myself up again and from there it was a case of doing my best to try and bridge the gap to Colin (Edwards).
“The bike was working quite well but every time I closed a tenth or two he had an answer and pulled it back out. Towards the end I had some issues in a couple of left-handers and my pace dropped too much. Anyway, I had an enjoyable race, going back and forth with a few guys at the beginning especially.
“It's not a spectacular result but we've end the season with two top fives and we know we have a direction to work in over the winter. It hasn't been a great season for me in terms of results but the improvements we have made since the start are huge and I'm excited about the future. We're thirteenth overall, which looks awful on paper, but we are only eleven points off seventh and I had three first-lap incidents that weren't my fault – just one of those could have made the difference.
Acknowledging the departure of team manager Livio Suppo following the final round, Hayden is now looking forward to getting prepared for the 2010 season.
“Next season starts tomorrow and I can't wait to get back to work! There will be some changes in the team and a few guys leaving who I will miss. I want to thank them because even though it's on old saying it really is true that Ducati is like a family. All I can say is good luck to them and I'm looking forward to welcoming the new guys in.”