Forced to undergo shoulder surgery after struggling at the first Sepang test earlier this month, Nicky Hayden made an impressive return to MotoGP action at the same venue on Tuesday.
The former MotoGP champion broke his shoulder in a training accident in late-December, but didn't know the full extent of the damage until he tried to ride at the opening Sepang test.
“I was just riding around with one arm and not learning anything,” said Hayden on Tuesday.
That experience prompted further scans upon his return to America and the subsequent decision to operate. With such a short recovery time, Hayden flew to Malaysia fearing he could miss out on meaningful track time for the third test in a row, but was to be pleasantly surprised.
“The shoulder is better than I expected,” said Hayden at the end of day one. “I'm really grateful to Dr Ting. Three weeks ago I had a pretty big operation where he repaired my labrum and also shaved cartilage. So to be here and able to ride - not 100% - but pretty comfortable, he did a great job. Even right after the surgery there wasn't a lot of swelling.”
Hayden was the top Desmosedici in sixth place, 1.371sec behind Honda's Casey Stoner, but most importantly he was able to get down to some serious set-up work with the new aluminium-frame GP12.
“I missed Valencia, the last test was a waste, but today I was able to enjoy riding the bike, understand it more and give some good feedback. We'll see how I feel in the morning. Hopefully I'm not too sore,” he said.
“I didn't go crazy. I did about 30 laps, some of the laps on my bike were by Franco [Battaini, test rider]. I didn't ride in the rain this afternoon because I didn't want to do something silly and crash on the shoulder for nothing.”
And what is his verdict on the GP12?
“I like the bike,” Hayden replied. “Definitely it does some stuff I've asked for better. But I need to be going faster, understand it better and dial it in more.
“We still need to figure out where the weight is to try and get some more traction, that's definitely missing a bit, but it's a nice bike to ride. It's got a lot of torque at the bottom and I really enjoy riding it.”