A small mistake by Nicky Hayden cost him the chance of a best dry finish of the season in Sunday's Japanese MotoGP.

Third and fourth in the wet races at Jerez and Silverstone, Hayden survived early contact with team-mate Valentino Rossi at Motegi, then took advantage of accidents and penalties to inherit fourth place - just behind Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista - on lap 6 of 24.

The Ducati rider stayed near to Bautista and, when the recovering Casey Stoner overtook him on lap 11, Hayden tried to stick with the Repsol Honda rider.

But he got sucked in too deep on the brakes at turn one, forcing him to run off track and rejoin in tenth. Hayden finished the race in seventh.

"Our bike was pretty good this weekend and it is really the first time I've been kind of competitive here," began Hayden.

"On the start, everybody flinched, and I almost got baited into jumping. Then I got touched by Vale on the exit of Turn 1 and went off the track and lost a lot of time. We were all racing, and it was normal for the first lap.

"I got into a pretty good rhythm, and when Casey came past me, I wanted to try to follow him past Bautista, but I came in way too hot and went off the track.

"It's a shame, because with everybody making mistakes, I had a chance to get us a good result.

"It was my mistake, and I'm sorry to Ducati and everybody, because they worked so hard. Phillip Island is a track I like, so hopefully there we can do a decent race there."

With sixth in the championship Rossi crashing out, Hayden is now a reduced 16 points behind the Italian.