Nicky Hayden will start his fifth racing season with the factory Ducati MotoGP team at Qatar this weekend.
A world champion for Honda, Hayden experienced his first grand prix season without a rostrum in 2012 and the present Desmosedici 'GP12.5' motorcycle looks a clear step behind the pace-setting Hondas and Yamahas.
On the positive side, progress has been made at each of the three pre-season tests, ending with Hayden +0.859s at Jerez and within reach of the 'second group', at the tail end of the top six.
“I'm very much looking forward to starting another season,” said Hayden. “Of course I wish we were going into it with more speed and consistency, but I feel like we've made progress at every pre-season test.
“The team has used the dry track time we've had very well, and we were able to get more out of the recent Jerez test than I thought we would, considering I'd just had wrist surgery.
“The Qatar track is smooth, which should suit our bike well, and racing under the lights at the first round is always very unique.”
Hayden finished in sixth place, from fifth on the grid, at Losail last season.