Nicky Hayden, the last MotoGP champion of the 990cc era, is expecting a very different riding experience during this year's return to a 1-litre engine capacity.
The American, who hasn't won a race since his title-winning 2006 season, is unsurprisingly pleased to see the back of the unpopular 800cc bikes, but believes the new breed of machines will be far more refined than the often unruly 990s.
Speaking at Ducati's Wrooom press event on Tuesday, Hayden said:
“I never made any secret that I prefer the new displacement to the 800s, although I think things will be much different than in 2006, beginning with the tyres, and the electronics have also come a long way.
“We'll have more power, and we'll have to find the right balance between controlling it while still taking as much advantage of it as we can.”
2012 will be Hayden's fourth season at Ducati, where he has claimed one podium a year and a best of seventh in the championship (2009).
Last season saw Hayden finish just seven points behind new team-mate and nine time grand prix champion Valentino Rossi, as the pair finished seventh and eighth in the championship.
After losing ground relative to its rivals, 2012 is a big season for the Italian team, which won the title with Casey Stoner in 2007 and enjoyed race wins with the Australian until his title-winning switch to Repsol Honda last year.
“I've stayed in contact with Filippo [Preziosi] and the guys in the Ducati Corse department over the winter, and I know they've worked really hard. We'll have a lot of things to try at Sepang,” said Hayden of the yet-to-unveiled 2012 Ducati.
“I know it won't be easy, but I'm also confident that we can start to reduce the gap between now and the first race at Qatar. I believe in Ducati, this project and Filippo, and I want to get back on my Ducati as soon as possible.”
Unfortunately for Hayden, he has more than just technical issues on his mind, having broken a shoulder and fractured three ribs in a flat track training accident during the last week of December.
The Sepang test starts on January 31st.