Nicky Hayden has moved ahead of Valentino Rossi in the 2012 MotoGP World Championship standings after notching up his equal-best finish of the season on home soil at Laguna Seca.
Fresh from the announcement that he will remain with Ducati for 2013, Hayden's race nearly came to an early conclusion when he clashed with Alvaro Bautista on the start line, the contact prompting caution from the American initially as he slipped to tenth.
Despite this, Hayden steadily worked himself into contention, bridging the gap to sixth place Stefan Bradl and passing the German before the chequered flag to finish in that position for the fourth time this season.
Though being frustrated to 'struggle' with the Ducati throughout the weekend, Hayden nonetheless now finds himself two points ahead of high-profile team-mate Rossi having finished every race this season, and is level on points with sixth place Bradl.
“The day got off to a rough start, as I crashed in the warm-up session when I didn't have enough heat in the brakes. For the race, my bike was the best it's been this weekend, and I got a good start, but then Bautista and I touched. I thought maybe I knocked my brake lever, so I was too careful in turns one and two.
“Then I got held up behind Bautista and lost a gap to that second group, which I spent most of the race trying to bridge. I got to Bradl, but the other guys were already gone, although I didn't have the pace to run with them anyway.
“I was fighting the bike and running wide in the turns, but I pushed until the end. It's frustrating to struggle so much all weekend at Laguna, and it's not the way I wanted to go into the two-week break, but I think we can put up a better fight at Indy.”