Nicky Hayden is targeting a further step forward with Ducati in 2010 after showing a glimpse of his potential towards the end of his maiden season with the Italian manufacturer.

Hayden appeared destined to join Ducati predecessor Marco Melandri in failing to get accustomed to the Desmosedici, but a series of improvements towards the end of the year saw him reach the podium at Indianapolis before posing a consistent top five threat.

Labelling his maiden season as 'tougher than expected', the former world champion maintains that his march up the order by the season's conclusion is indicative of what he can hope to achieve in 2010.

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"I'm not going to start making excuses but 2009 was a very tough year for us - tougher than we expected," he said. "But I am proud of the way myself and my team reacted and of the results we managed through hard work and by keeping faith in ourselves and our bike. To step onto the podium at Indy and to score consistent top five finishes in races and tests towards the end of the year, having started out fifteenth or sixteenth at the start of the year, represents huge progress."

Testing a hybrid version of the bike he will ride in 2010 during the Valencia post-season tests, Hayden was immediately pleased with what he was presented with.

"I have high hopes for 2010: I like the bike I rode in the test at Valencia and I'm pleased with the changes. Now we have to find a good base set-up that is going to work at different circuits so that we can get straight on the pace without having to change too much."

Indeed, Hayden is determined to unlock the potential of the Desmosedici and establish the 'special connection' that team-mate Casey Stoner enjoys with the same machine.

"Having Vittoriano [Guareschi], a fellow rider who knows the bike to perfection and can pick up on our feedback immediately, is a great help. It is sometimes difficult to find the limit of the Desmosedici but its potential is huge - Casey has shown that in the past and he continues to do so. Sure, he has a special connection with the bike and he is an incredible talent, but I am confident that we can make some steps forward too."