Last year, Nicky Hayden finished fourth, just 1.876sec from victory, in round one of the season at Qatar.

Fast-forward a year and the American starts his third MotoGP season at Ducati this Sunday in a less competitive state, having been ninth fastest - although only one-second from the top - in Monday's final night of testing at the same Losail circuit

All Ducati riders have struggled to match the pace of the best Hondas and Yamahas this winter, the latest Desmosedici proving difficult to turn, but Hayden is confident that further track time and a cleaner circuit will play into their hands by race day.

"Well, it's time to go racing now! We obviously wouldn't have minded a bit more testing, but I'm looking forward to starting another season. We'll have four days here for the race weekend, so there's still time to check some more options," he said.

"During the test, there were parts of the track where I was pretty fast, and a couple of long, fast corners where I was losing a pretty good chunk of time. Our focus will be to try and get the bike to steer a bit better through those spots. Hopefully as the track gets cleaned up more, it will help us a bit more than some of the others.

"Everyone is really tight on times, and I think that's pretty cool. I like how competitive it is, and we know it's going to be like that all season.

"Finally, I'd like to let everyone in Japan know the world is with them in this difficult time. I've worked with many Japanese companies over the years, so I have a lot of friends and fans there. Stay strong; we're thinking of you," added the former factory Honda rider and 2006 world champion.

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