Nicky Hayden will head into this weekend's Valencia MotoGP season finale level on points with fellow American Ben Spies for sixth in the world championship.

Tech 3 rider Spies missed Sunday's Estoril race due to injury, while Hayden took a gamble on the softer option front tyre - and briefly led the race - before slipping back to fifth.

"Today was the first time in my career that I have gone out to race in the dry without completing a single lap in those conditions before lining up on the grid," said the Ducati rider.

"Over the first few laps the bike worked really well, I felt good and I even managed to lead the race which hasn't happened for a while.

"In the middle part of the race I had a couple of moments on damp patches and lost my feeling a little.

"I got my rhythm back together towards the end and joined in the fight for the podium.

"Fifth place alongside a crash for Casey isn't a brilliant result for the team - it has been a tough weekend on everybody but we will try to do better at Valencia."

Spies intends to try and ride at Valencia, but if Hayden can take sixth it will equal his highest championship ranking since winning the title in 2006.

Sixth would also be the best ranking by a Ducati rider other than Casey Stoner since the 800cc era started, Loris Capirossi having been seventh in 2007.

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