After a career spent pedalling Hondas in various classes, most notably his MotoGP World Championship title win in 2006, Nicky Hayden embarked on a change of scenery for 2009 – with mixed results.
Taking on the bike that Marco Melandri couldn't wait to hand over after a dismal single season on the Desmosedici, Hayden had high hopes of replicating some of the form that took him to title victory, but the reality proved somewhat different.
Despite some promising noises in testing, Hayden endured a difficult start to the season, getting mired outside the top ten for the first few rounds.
In his defence, Melandri's stellar performances on the unfancied Hayate went some way to suggest Hayden's issues were down to a similar incompatibility with the Desmosedici. Nonetheless, with Casey Stoner up at the front, Hayden needed to at least get closer to his team-mate.
Hayden plundered on and the results slowly began to pick up as the year wore on, posting a top ten finish in Barcelona, before popping into the top five at his home round at Laguna Seca.
Inspiration on home soil was also the motivation behind his one and only podium of the season at Indianapolis as Hayden finished a fine third, the American also enjoying his status as lead rider following Stoner's absence through illness.
Top five results in the final two rounds lifted Hayden's spirits further, but it wasn't enough to see him end the season higher than 13th in the standings.
Nonetheless, by voting Hayden three positions higher in your end of season vote, you have recognised that he finished just 11 points off seventh overall, a position he would have likely achieved had he not been innocently involved in three
first lap incidents.
It means Hayden, who has been re-signed by Ducati for another year, can go into the off-season with something to build on - even if he knows he will have no excuses in 2010 if he doesn't…
Ducati Desmosedici GP9
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